Monthly Archives: May 2014

Days 146, 147 & 148: Block Party, Hired! & Dublin Canyon Rd

Monday was Memorial Day. Sometime in the late morning, there was a knock at the door. I answered, and there stood a stranger with three little girls. He asked for Beth by name, so I went and got her. Turns out these are our neighbors from down the street, come to invite the household to a block party. In all the time I’ve lived here, I don’t think there’s ever been a block party on our court before. Of course, we said “yes.”
Apparently, one of the neighbors at the end of the court had decided just that morning that they should host a block party for Memorial Day, and so they did. By the time we arrived around six, there was a tent set up and two big grills were going, there was a table full of food, and there were lots of lovely young families with beautiful young children. I stayed for a little while, but then I slipped away. These seemed like really nice people, and hospitable as well. However, young families with whom I have no connection just really aren’t that interesting to me. I judge myself for that, but it’s the truth anyway.

Day 147. Remember when I applied for a job online? Yesterday, without ever meeting a human being, receiving a phone call or being interviewed in any way whatsoever, I got hired, also online. It is official: I will be driving a golf cart at this year’s Alameda County Fair, wearing an official t-shirt and ball cap, and transporting “talent” and vendors. Yeehaw! Sounds like fun to me! And maybe I could get a side gig as a proofreader. . . .

Day 148. There is a little road that, until this evening, I always thought was just the driveway to the Marriot Hotel. Not so! Tonight as I was driving by, I saw that the street sign said, “Dublin Canyon Road.” Really? It’s an actual road? So naturally, I turned off to investigate. I admit that it wasn’t terribly inspiring. It’s one of those roads that has a split personality: is this an up-and coming area? Is this a low income area? Is this rent or own? Town or country? 
It mostly runs right beside I-580, so it’s pretty noisy. And who knew we had a rodeo park so close? Not me! But there it was, complete with pens and a horse and lots of fences.
Whenever I’m in an unknown area, pulling off to the side of the road, leaving the van running and wandering around taking pictures, I’m always a tad nervous that somebody will call the cops or threaten me or shoot me or something. Nothing even remotely like that has happened yet, but you never know. It could happen.

Have you done something new today?

Days 143, 144 & 145: Walk, Drive & Inhale

Friday, Day 143, I was exhausted and completely devoid of any inspiration whatsoever. In this mood, I agreed to a hike with Beth. I didn’t even take my camera. And, of course, we managed to find a new trail up on Pleasanton Ridge. I’m sorry I have no proof, no pictorial evidence, but it was a lovely bit of a hike, and I was surprised to find it. It seems that, by now, that area of the Ridge ought to be pretty much played out for newness, but apparently not quite.

Day 144. By Saturday, I was already done being with people, so after a morning spent at the plant nursery with Beth and her man, I ran away to lunch and a movie by myself. Still coming down off the camping high, I decided to take a detour into unknown territory on the way home. After a few minutes down what I thought was a new road, I recognized that this was the road to the Morgan Territory Regional Preserve. Okay, no problem, go straight here instead of turning right, and voila! I’m on New ground. 
Wasn’t it just a week ago that I was exclaiming over all the glorious green? My, how quickly green passes! Still, there is an austere beauty in these hills.
I always love encountering animals on these drives, and these horses were real beauties. They didn’t seem so impressed with me, however!
There must have been something in the air that day. I drove past one barn where a horse was running and kicking and having a grand time all around the paddock. And as I was watching the very unusual cow – bull? – in this field, a calf came racing, hell bent for leather, all the way across the field, like his very soul was on fire! I never saw that before! In the picture, he (she?) looks like he’s never run a step in his life.
And this is something I simply do not understand. Here is a very nice barn, tucked into a little valley between two hills. And the entire valley behind the barn, way up into the hills, is absolutely full of junk! What is that all about? Dude, there’s even a BUS in there! 

Day 145. I hope this video will show up! Often, they don’t work for my blog (which, if it does work, you’ll hear me explaining to my videographer). Sunday evening I was in a more social mood, and headed over to my local watering hole to hang out for a bit. I was stumped for my One New Thing, but a guy I was having some fun conversation with saved the day by pulling out his e-cigarette, an invention which I think is oh-so-very modern and strange. Anyway,  he offered and I said, “Why yes, of course!” And here (hopefully) is the evidence.

Day 142: Cafe 1 in Fort Bragg

I wake up. It’s daylight, and all is so deliciously quiet. I want to stay snuggled in my blankets in the back of the van, Dooley tight in my arms, just a little longer. But I know that soon all those campers that have moved into my precious territory will begin to awaken, and move around, and talk, and make all sorts of noise, and just the thought of that is irritating, so I crawl out of my warm nest and prepare to slip away while I am still at peace. I don’t make coffee. I don’t eat. I don’t go to the beach. I just go.
I make one last stop at my “favorite” latrine, noticing that here, at the campsite of the original crew I was with, no one has moved in. All is still peaceful and quiet: no cars, no trucks or tents or campers. I file the information away for later. Another advantage of leaving at 7:35am is that the chances of meeting a vehicle coming in on the six mile one-lane dirt road of terror is small. I rev up the van, and off I go. I time it; I make good time, even through threatening fog, completing the six miles in about forty minutes. The only other vehicle I meet is at the very end. A big truck is pulling in from Highway 1 just as I am driving out. He backs up, I wave, and I have officially left my special place of peace, mystery, and refuge.
It takes me another forty-five minutes to get to Fort Bragg. I had hoped to stop at the little beach in Westport that became “Emma’s beach” in my book, but I don’t see it. I never find the landmark I remembered. So I keep on going, ready at last for some coffee, some bacon and eggs, maybe even some conversation (maybe). Still, I feel compelled to pull over a few time, get out of the van, and say goodbye, again and again, to my beloved ocean.
By the time I get to Fort Bragg, I don’t care where I stop. I decide I will pull over at the first place I see that even looks like they might serve breakfast. I do. And someone must be looking out for me, because I’ve stopped at a cafe where all the food is real food, organic even. My bacon and eggs and coffee and cream and even the sugar are all the best quality I could hope for. Ahhh. Heaven.
I head down 128E, a lovely two-lane highway through the redwoods. This is a twisty winding road, and there are lots of turn-offs, since there is absolutely no safe place to pass otherwise. In California, it is the law that, on roads like this, you pull over to let faster traffic pass. I’ve gotten really good at it, because I hate having someone crawling up my backside, and I really want to enjoy these beautiful roads at my leisure. However, I also hate being the one caught behind someone who is slower than I want to be.

While camping, I said the metta prayer a lot. It goes something like this: “May I be at peace. May my heart remain open. May I awaken to the light of my true nature. May I be healed. May I be a source of healing for all beings.” It is useful when my heart gets ruffled, to remind me of what is important, of who and how I want to be in this world. As I drive along 128E, I say this prayer a lot. Only now it sounds something like this: May I be at peace. May – pull OVer already! Don’t you know the LAW??? – May my heart be op – are you $$*&%(*# kidding me? Can’t you READ??? – May my heart – no, REALLY?? Didn’t you see that TURNOFF?? – Rgh, shit, um, okay, MAY I BE AT PEACE. . . . Even while my heart is coming to a fast boil in my impatience and frustration, I’m laughing at myself. Really, Sarah? You have nowhere you have to be. You are in the most serene, gorgeous place. I mean, look around, it is BEAUTIFUL! Nonetheless, this ridiculous dialog continues all the way to Highway 101 where, as soon as the highway widens, I pass the car I’ve been stuck behind for an hour, say a few more choice words in farewell, and race to get back to the real world. Ah, enlightenment. Still a hazy future dream. At least I can laugh at myself, or I’d be really pathetic!

Have you done something new today?

Days 141: Gettin’ Nekkid

It seems as though every morning my eyes are a little squintier. Is that from all the glorious sunshine? I have arrived at day 6 of my grand camping adventure; the last three of them I’ve been on my own. I haven’t spoken to anyone but seals and elk and myself in two days, and I’ve kept those interactions mighty brief. Oh how I love it here! A man, apparently alone, has his campsite within shouting distance of mine, so I do feel a little bit of a safety net. We never interact, not even a wave.
I take my morning constitutional before my beach walk today. The road to a latrine takes me through a gorgeous alder wood, but until today I’ve not taken the shortcut through it. Holy kamoley, how long do you suppose this truck has been here? I couldn’t even tell what it was until I got up close. 
Here are a couple other images from these lovely morning walks.
On to the beach. There’s a little excitement there this morning. Three of the elk have separated from the others and come down to the ocean to play in the surf. They seem tentative but committed. 
Other than the elk, and a cocktail party of seagulls and pelicans, I didn’t see the usual suspects: no whales, no seals, no otters. No new tracks, not even dog or human, since the last high tide. I did see a strange, rough looking, very big brown bird hobbling along near the rocks. I pulled out my binoculars. It was some sort of vulture. A brown vulture? Go figure. But that was the only new thing on this quiet, quiet walk. I took my time, going, as was my norm, all the way to the very south end of the beach.
Headed back up the beach and I’ve got to pee. I look to the south. I look to the north. Not a soul. Just me.
My shoes and socks are already off. I might as well just take my pants off, and then I can drip dry, right? So I do. But then, standing pants-less on the beach, I think Well, I’ve already got my pants off, and being naked on the beach would sure be One New Thing, so I might as well go for it, right? So I do. It’s surprisingly warm now, considering I had been wearing long pants, three shirts, a scarf and a hat. I’m looking across the sand at the tide and I think, Well, I’m already naked, I might as well run out and play in the surf a little, right? So I do.
So then I figure, Well, I’m already nekkid, I’ve already run across that big wide beach and played in the surf. I might as well just hang out here on these rocks and comb my hair like a mermaid, right? So I do.
I had planned to take it easy all day today, saving my strength for one last trip up to the Mystic Wood tomorrow before I head home. But other campers have started to arrive, though it’s only Wednesday, and I’m antsy as they trespass on my solitude. There’s a group of campers with a howling baby just a ways down from my site. I decide to go back up to the Wood today, and leave earlier than I’d intended tomorrow. But guess what: as I make my way back up to this place of magic, I discover that the baby group has gotten there before me. I make a big detour, scrambling off the path up and down places much steeper than I’m comfortable with, just to avoid them. I’d already stood, silent as a mute, when I encountered a man and his dog at the beginning of the path. The man was very handsome and very pleasant and wanted his jittery dog to meet me. I didn’t want to break my silence, so although I knelt and made nice, I did not, in fact, speak.

I give credit to this group with the baby. Except when the baby let off steam, they were very respectful and quiet. They were sitting within one of the large circles of trees. I managed to avoid them entirely, and in so doing I went up higher than I ever had before, to the very end of the Mystic Wood part, in fact. A log was across the path there, and I gratefully sat to rest. I hoped that, if I waited long enough, the group below would leave me to commune alone with my trees. After a while, I looked upwards, behind me, and discovered that the path continued. I decided to head up and to the right, in the general direction of the ocean.

The further up I went, the more obvious it was that people rarely came this way. The path got increasingly narrow, and eventually I had to pick my way through branches that had grown across it. I broke through a thick mess of spider web at one point. No other human had been there for a very long time. I did find some scat, though, twice, big piles and very black. I’m guessing maybe a large wild cat, though I admit I’m no more a scat expert than I am an animal prints expert.
When I finally came back down, the group was still there, though they’d moved to another circle on the other side of the path. I decided to just go on, ignoring them as much as possible. I stopped to spend some time with my enchanted prince. I don’t know what his crime was, though, because no matter how many times I kissed him, he wasn’t released from his enchantment. But maybe that’s just because I’m not a “fair maid.”
As I was taking advantage of this photo op, one of the people from below came bursting up around the tree, startling himself severely when he saw me. (I’m guessing he was looking for a place to relieve himself.) He was so startled that I automatically tried to reassure him, thus breaking my two-day silence. When he finally walked away, I couldn’t help staring. He was wearing, over a white wife-beater, a skin tight tank top and tights in the most brilliant colors. . . and a thick, ground-length, feathered tail!
I followed him back to the path. His group stared round-eyed at me, and I wanted to stare back at them, but, except for a gorgeous, sassy man at the far side of the circle who grinned saucily at me (he looked the type who simply can’t help himself), they looked quite stony, almost hostile, especially the woman in the middle of the circle who held the baby. I had the very uncomfortable feeling that I was interrupting some pagan ritual. So I averted my eyes, and went peacefully on my way.
People kept coming into the grounds all afternoon and evening, and they all seemed to want to camp right by me. By nightfall, there were three campsites set up between me and my stranger-friend. That was too much for me. As I took my evening beach walk – no longer by myself – and prepared for bed, I decided I’d leave as soon as I got up in the morning. My time of camping peace and solitude was over.

Have you done something new today?

Day 140: Silence

It’s amazing to me how bad I don’t look! It’s been five days since I had a shower. My head isn’t itchy, my hair doesn’t look so bad. This is what I’m learning: if I don’t have a mirror, I look pretty damn good. I admit, though, I want a shower. Also, this morning I hear (but can’t see) a noisy group of campers. I hear conversation that I really don’t want to hear – lots of crazy emotion and swear words, which is not what I want in my total getaway – and they’re playing music that is decidedly not to my liking. So after my morning beach walk and my coffee, I load up the van and head back to the campsite near the bridge, where it is peaceful and quiet. I’m glad I never see these offenders. I’m glad when they’re gone.
Though it never looks like it in any of my pictures, my face is badly sunburned. It is very hot and burns, especially at night when I’m trying to sleep. I decide to keep myself well and thoroughly shaded today, to stay off the beach except early in the morning and in the evening. Every day is warmer, and wonderfully sunny. Though lovely, that’s the last thing my hot face needs! So after breakfast at my new campsite, I stay still and quiet, make use of a ballcap and a scarf, and actually nap a bit. I’m protecting my face, but decide I might as well get some sun on my legs. Alas, my brilliant plan results in burnt upper thighs!
Once I wake up from my snooze, I decide to follow the road past my current favorite latrine, way beyond the original campsite of the big group. My leg has gotten increasingly fatigued, and I want to give it a rest so that I can get back up to the Mystic Wood while I’m here. So, assuming this will be an easy walk because it isn’t up and up and up, I head off. Before long there’s a gate that keeps vehicles out, and I have a long, quiet, beautiful walk. I walk for about an hour and a half, which I realize later might not be considered “taking it easy.”
On my way back to the campsite, I notice just what fantastic settings the latrines are in. I mean, really? What richness, to have your latrines in such environments, with such incredible views!
The walk is my first One New Thing. My second is using a latrine with the door wide open. The view is marvelous!
Once back in the quiet, creekside camp, I have the urge, for the first time, to write on the new novel. Back home it had become write one word, edit two, a laborious and joyless process. Here in the quiet and the breeze and the sun, I sit down at the rough picnic table and whip out six pages in longhand. I’ve never before done “serious” writing longhand, I’ve always used a word processor or computer. It feels wonderful! Best guess, more or less 2,000 words: a very good day’s work. After dinner – tilapia in a tomato sauce, fried up in butter on the Coleman Stove – I head back to my favorite campsite, and from there to the beach. Look what I find on my way. (You can’t make this stuff up!)
All day, I’ve encountered no one, I’ve spoken to no one. My mind is quiet. I am so very content.
Have you done something new today?

Days 138 & 139: Sinkyone Wilderness: high life, wildlife, good life

Sunday started off well, with another One New Thing before breakfast: while I was having my morning walk on the beach, I saw an otter come up out of the water and roll around on the sand, almost like a dog does, back to the earth and feet kicking up, just having a great time. It was the only time I saw an otter, and I didn’t hear about anyone else seeing one at all. But in those moments I felt so much of the joy of living: otters just seem to have it!
Back to the beach after breakfast, where those of us present got to witness another exciting event: some guy, um, well, I don’t know what it’s called. But it was pretty darn cool. I would LOVE to do that!
After that excitement, I went back to the campsite. This was the day that most of the people from my group were leaving, so I hung out in the kitchen/eating/bonfire area to get the last of my visiting in. It’s possible that at this point someone may have invited me to indulge in something not exactly like tobacco, and I might have agreed, in the interests of experimentation and One New Thing. If that did, in fact, happen, I might have once again noticed no appreciable effects. I was pretty mellow, but this was my third day camping after all. I had no increase in appetite, so unusual feelings. All in all, I’d say that whole area of experimentation is pretty much a bust for me. But now I know.

All afternoon people were leaving, and by dinnertime I was pretty much on my own. I was scared and excited. There were a few other campers here and there, but for the most part I was alone. I left my original campsite and moved my van to the beach, where I left it until the next morning. All evening and night I stayed on the beach, watching seals and whales and the most fantastic pelican ballet. I had never seen pelicans feeding before, and when they feed in such vast numbers, it truly is like the most beautiful aerial ballet. As the evening wore on, everybody else left the beach, until it was just me and Dooley. There was also a big motor home parked by the beach, quite a distance from me, but I never saw any sign of life there. Dooley and I slept in the van, by the beach, alone. It was fabulous.

Day 139. I didn’t look too bad for my fourth day out. I started the day with a long beach walk. I encountered no one. I saw whales before breakfast – that’s something new! I encountered footprints that were neither human nor dog nor anything else I recognized, which was pretty darn exciting for me. They were fresh, on the wet sand left by the receding tide. Every subsequent morning I checked, but never saw the like again. 
After my beach walk I got another One New Thing: my first time ever using a camp stove unsupervised. All I used it for was to make my morning coffee, but I was darn proud of myself. I used it for real cooking later that day; fillet of sole. Yummy! After breakfast it was time to answer the all important question: does a Sare poop in the woods? The departing campers had taken with them not only the entire kitchen set-up, but the porta-potties as well. I’d learned in a hurry to pee wherever, but. . . . The answer is “no.” When absolutely necessary, I did use a latrine. I also moved my van. I hadn’t planned to stay on the beach, and there was no table for the stove, just a big log with a flattish side. By this time I had lots of campsites to choose from, so I picked a nice one by the stream for my base for the day. Once I’d moved, I was walking again. I was headed back up to the Mystic Wood, with a brief stop to take a couple of those reflection pictures I love to take.
Here’s the bridge into/out of the camp. I had to cross this every time I went up into the Mystic Wood. It was right by my new campsite, so I was aware of anyone coming or going. There must have been a half a dozen vehicles go by that afternoon! Way too much traffic for me, so I moved camp again.
This next campsite was also my last. I stayed here for the next three nights. It was close to the beach – a fairly easy walk for me and my increasingly fatigued still-healing right leg (I must say here that my leg held up beautifully on this trip. I walked so much, up and down steep, rough trails, on the beach, by the hour. It did magnificently, though each day was harder). The other very cool thing about this campsite was that I shared it with an elk. He was one of a small band that hung out between my campsite and the beach, but this one guy would come right on in. I could come within about ten yards of these elk, and I would move slowly and speak respectfully, and though they watched me warily – as I did them – neither of us showed any aggression. 
That night I had another exciting new experience: watching osprey feed. Osprey are beautiful falcon-type birds, and when they feed they dive-bomb head first into the water. When they come back out, they do a hilarious little in-flight wiggle-jiggle to shake off the water before they either head off to the old homestead with a fresh, silvery fish or back up to cruising altitude for another try. There were five or six fishing this night. It was very thrilling to watch.

I hardly spoke at all this day, easily less than 100 words. I meditated on top of a picnic table. I let the peace and quiet of this beautiful place seep into me. Oh, yeah, and I fried the heck out of my face! What a good day!

Have you done something new today?

Day 137: Sinkyone Wilderness Area – The Mystic Wood

I had my next One New Thing on the way to breakfast the second day of my camping experience. I passed a small group of twenty-somethings and a total stranger asked me, “You wanna smoke some hash?” Now I may, in fact, try that at some point on this trip, but before breakfast? I politely said, “No, thank you.” This seemed to disconcert him, so I added, “Maybe later.” He shrugged. I was already forgotten.
Other firsts for my second day camping including seeing actual whales! Apparently before I got to the beach a whole pod had come right up close and rolled around in the surf, playing for quite a while, removing barnacles and generally having a grand time while I was elsewhere. I heard all about it for the next two days. Nonetheless I did, in fact, get a few glimpses from a distance, and even that was pretty darn exciting for me.
Three years ago I first entered what I immortalized in Left turn at Cloud 9 as the Mystic Wood. I couldn’t wait to get back there. I went up alone this time and was undisturbed by other people the whole time I walked in this enchanted place. About five hundred years ago, when the redwoods were just babies, the wind that roared over the hill in this one place apparently snapped them off short. Undaunted, they simply threw out new trunks and kept growing for the sky. The redwoods have been warped and formed into the most fantastical shapes, and this whole area of the forest has a mystical, otherworldly feel. My only complaint is that it is absolutely impossible to capture the grandeur of these redwoods in pictures. They are absolutely HUGE! I kept trying.
Observe the tree on the right. See on the right side where the lowest branch juts out near the ground? That “low” spot is actually above my head! I can walk through that shortest space without ducking, and my hair isn’t ruffled in the least. That, incidentally, is the same tree that graces the cover of Left Turn at Cloud 9.
<<–  I could stand inside that broad, flat trunk, completely hidden from anyone on the other side. It is at least six feet wide!
I had time before lunch for another trip to the beach. This time I took my camera.
After lunch, another New Thing: I crossed the road and headed up a new path. This one was very steep, made doable for me and my healing leg by virtue of many, many switchbacks. It took me a lo-o-ong time to get to the top! I kept thinking I was almost there. HA! However, I did finally make it. By that time I was so hot that as I sat all alone overlooking the beach – far, far below – I simply took off my shirts and breeze-dried. Ahhhh. Modesty urges me to call this One New Thing, but alas, honesty makes me confess that it is not.
That sign in the middle says “Leaving Tsunami Hazard Zone.” Well, that was a relief! Next up, I encounter a redwood with the heart burned out. The tree is still alive. In the left-side picture below, I’m looking at the tree from the outside. In the middle picture, I am standing inside the tree. And in the right-side picture I am lying on the ground inside the tree, shooting the picture straight up inside the trunk.
At the very top of this long and arduous climb I found what appeared to be a grave. It was marked by a long, flat, thick piece of bark, above which was a smaller, roundish piece. The impression was that under it lay a human body. The wooden marker said OSA, and there was a card which I did not disturb. I asked my friend about it later, and he said these are tribal lands, so it could very well be a human grave. In any case, it is well tended. Rest in peace, Osa, whoever you are.
I may have had one last One New Thing that day. I might maybe have had a glass of blackberry and, um, herb wine. Whatever it was, it tasted rather nice, with a pleasant herby finish. However, I didn’t observe any effect other than what one might expect from a short glass of any old homemade wine, so who can say for sure what it was?

Have you done something new today?

Day 136: Camping at Sinkyone Wilderness Area

I don’t know why I’ve been so nervous about this upcoming trip! Though I am looking forward to it, these last few days I’ve felt much more anxious than excited, even though I’ve tried to maintain a facade of pure excitement. Thankfully I spent some good time with a couple of friends yesterday, including a trip to Berkeley with one of them for a great one man show. This morning I am finally leveled off and just pure excited. 
As you can see, Dooley is waiting patiently while I finish up the last details. The van is packed, I’ve taken my last shower for who knows how long, and we are on our way to three plus days of camping. I am accountable to no one but myself (since Dooley is always cool with whatever). This is a six-and-a-half hour drive up coast into a giant wilderness area. I’ll be meeting with a group of tie-dyed hippies for a weekend of fantastic food and a whole lotta, um, herb. That’s not my thing, but if it was, there’d be plenty for me to choose from. An hour or so above San Francisco it becomes a fantastic drive, up Highway 101/128N and on to Highway 1, twisting two lane roads through forests of massive redwoods and tiny little towns. Beautiful!
One of my friends suggested that I was so anxious because I had certain expectations for the trip. It was true. I’m going to the place where a lot of the inspiration for Left Turn at Cloud 9 and the subsequent books came from. I want to recapture that almost unbelievable magic. And my writing has been stalled, so I hope to write like a fiend in the midst of all this beauty. Also, just in terms of my mental health I’m hoping for some true rejuvenation. However, after talking with my friend, I’ve decided to simply BE (as much as is possible with my mind-chattery tendencies), and let things unfold as they will, without expectation and without judgement. (HA! We’ll see how that goes!)

Almost six hours north and I get to the turn-off from Highway one. Only six miles to go seaward to the camping area. This one lane, rutted dirt road makes Highway 1 look like major, straight freeway. However I have to stop from time to time to capture the incredible beauty I’m surrounded by during the forty minutes it takes me to cover those six miles.

This is the view from above (wa-a-ay above!) the beach where Ben, with Emma in tow, lands his ultralight aircraft in the book Left Turn at Cloud 9. When I was here three years ago, that small body of water was still open to the ocean, the end of a creek that runs through the wilderness, and the beach area was much larger.
At last I arrive. Pick a grassy spot, park the van, open ‘er up, and my campsite is set up. Ahhh, the joy of van camping! This is the inaugural camping trip for this van. She handles the whole thing with style and grace, never once complaining, even that one ugly moment when I scraped her tummy on a very rutted bit of road. And if I don’t like my neighbors, I can change my campsite in the time it takes me to shut the doors and drive away. Perfect!
The view from my campsite
Porta-potty decor: I love camping with hippies!
This place could be called rustic. In the whole gigantic place (all of it I covered, anyway) I only saw three latrines. They are not maintained. The group I was with, who come out for two weekends a year (pre-Memorial Day and post-Labor Day) brought three porta-potties. There is also only one source for potable water (that I’m aware of, anyway), a tiny rivulet coming out of a plastic pipe roadside quite a ways from the main camping areas. So they also carted in a large water tank. In fact, they hauled in an entire working kitchen, complete with two stoves and two sink set-ups, as well as pots and pans and dishes and decorations and everything else a good kitchen needs. Did I mention that this event is called the Feed?
This is the “little” fire. They built it up into a big fire later.
That first evening was mostly down-time for me. I ate, I went to the beach, I played in the surf, I took a few pictures. My one friend and I greeted each other happily, but he was there with his whole family and these were all his peeps, so we only spent a few minutes catching up. I was content to stay on the outskirts. I actually skipped the big fire and went to bed shortly after dark. I could hear all the hootin’ and hollerin’, but I was ready to sleep. So what was new for me this day? The drive alone, camping in this van, meeting elk (see below), and coming to this event by myself, choosing each moment what I wanted to do for myself and who I wanted to do it with. This is very different for me! In fact, two years ago I had wanted to come but wouldn’t because I didn’t have anyone to come with. I simply wouldn’t do it. And last year I was in Michigan awaiting surgery during the Feed. Coming by myself to be with a group of strangers for a few days, especially when they all know each other and have been doing this together for forty years (for the oldest among them) is way out of my traditional comfort zone. And worth every minute! 
Here is a photo of my first in-person encounter with elk. Stay tuned: it will not be the last!

Have you done something new today?

Days 134 & 135: Camping Solo

Yesterday and today are full of all sorts of new things as I prepare for my first ever camping trip by myself. I’ll be van camping by myself, though with a group of people, most of whom are compete strangers to me, and the people I know I don’t know well. The place I’m going to is the setting for Left Turn at Cloud 9 and the coming soon Deeper than the Deep Blue Sea, as well as the third in the series that I’ve just started, working title Beyond the Wild Blue Yonder. 
I’ve transcribed all I’ve written so far into a notebook so that I can keep writing while I’m far from the computer and internet access. I’m excited for the trip and the time, and really intimidated about being on my own. I’ve never been the responsible one on a camping trip before, let alone not had a companion. In addition, I’m hoping to stay after the group leaves Sunday. The camp doesn’t officially open until Labor Day weekend, so I’d have a few days really and truly alone, something I’ve been longing for.
First thing, yesterday I took the way back seats out of my van for the first time. I lay out a nice carpet to cover up and pad up the very uncomfortable slots that the seats fit into. Now I can turn it into my home away from home. Joel taught me how to light and work his camp stove. We looked through his camp stuff and I picked a few choice items to take. Today I’ve been running around like a lunatic (though there’s no New Thing about that!), trying to buy camping-type things and figure out what I’m going to be eating etc. 
I also went through Beth’s box of camping supplies this afternoon. And while a lot of this is new to me in my role a newby responsible camper, here’re today actual One New Thing: between the gas pumps at Costco and the parking spot at Costco, I lost my Costco card. Yup: disappeared, vamoose, gone, never to be seen again. As a person who seldom loses anything, this was definitely – thankfully! – One New Thing.
I’ll be off the grid for the next week or so – I’m not sure how long. So no new posts for a while. But you can be sure I’ll take lots of pictures! Oh, and one more One New Thing for today: I am NOT proofreading this blog!

Have you done something new today?

Days 131, 132 & 133: Quirkle, Applying for a Job & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Sunday I thought I was just doing a quick and easy One New Thing: Chimes Ginger Chews (bonbons au gingembre, to be exact). Oh, my, they are delicious! At first these very chewy treats have a floral, almost perfumey flavor, but it quickly gives way to a wonderful, intense burn, just the way I like it! A definite new favorite for me. But then I went to my buddy Geoff’s for dinner. Not only did we make fresh (very fresh – we picked the basil right then and there) pesto, which I’d never done before, but he also introduced me to a very fun new game: Quirkle.
The game is for ages six and up, which seemed appropriate. All you do is match either colors or shapes and line them up in a scrabble-like configuration (it’s actually harder than it sounds… at least it was for me). The tiles are lacquered wood, which feels good in the hand, and the brightly painted shapes are cheerful. Plus, it’s fun. Amazing how competitive one (we won’t say which one!) can get with such a simple game. 
Oh, and I forgot to mention I had my choice of hot sauces to try with the barbecued ribs (I went with Melinda’s XXXXtra Reserve – I won’t do that again!). And we had gluten-free pasta, a Trader Joe’s brand made with quinoa that was the first gluten-free pasta I’ve ever had that actually felt and tasted like real pasta. All in all it was a very satisfying New Thing day.

Day 132. Joel, our Man about the House, takes two weeks off every summer to work at the Alameda County Fair, driving the talent and the vendors around on golf carts. This year, they need more people for the job. I’d been thinking about driving my van coast-to-coast-to-coast for three months or so, but this came up, and it sounds like a lot of fun. In all honesty, it’s also hecka scary for me, because I’ve never driven a golf cart, and I don’t care how easy it is, this is exactly the sort of thing that intimidates the hell out of me. However, I am a New Person this year, the Queen of New Things, so I decided I might as well go for it (I’m not even going to tell you how scared I am of getting hopelessly lost while I’m trying to deliver some famous rock band – like maybe Tower of Power – on time for their performance). So I filled out the online application and sent it in. Not only have I never applied for a job at a county fair before, I’ve also never applied for a temp job till now. Who knows, maybe I’ll see you at the fair this summer!

Day 133. Somehow I made it to dinner time tonight without doing anything new. The whole thing simply slipped my mind. I’m getting ready for a camping trip and doing a lot of grunt work on my new novel and I just forgot. I hate when that happens. Beth’s boyfriend to the rescue: he opened up a jar of Trader Joe’s Julienne Sliced Sun Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil to have with his meatloaf. I love tomatoes, if they’re ripe off the vine or cooked up in spaghetti sauce or diced up in salsa or guacamole, but I have never been a fan of sun dried tomatoes. I’m talking about the ones that are dried hard and shriveled like raisins and get put on salads. But soaked in olive oil? Major YUCK! I’ve never been willing to try that before. But a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do, and tonight I had to do sun dried tomatoes in olive oil. And you know what? I was right: YUCK!

Have you done something new today?