So you want to go camping do ya?

Camping is not for the faint of heart, even in the “posh” conditions of a travel trailer! Having a trusty companion or two and the right tools can make the difference between success and failure.  For me that would be the guard dog, handy husband, jugs of water, and very long extension cord.  Gotter done!

Camplite, husband, kayak, Scorpius, rack, roof, outrigger, canoe, man, towing, camper, travel, trailer, home, Nissan, Frontier, camping

I am grateful for our Camplite (aka Tin Can Ranch) that allows me to go places with my hubby and stay in a mobile “clean room,” away from the hazards of hotels and limited choices of restaurant menus.  Preparing for these trips is an incredible amount of work all by itself:  just about the same amount of tasks need to be completed for a week-long vacation as an over-nighter.  I have a sense that we won’t be doing the latter again anytime soon!  Regardless, I rallied the strength and off we went with great expectations to the Illinois Beach State Park north of Chicago, Illinois.  I was to attend the day-long Designs for Health:  A Prescription for Wellness seminar at the beautiful Chicago Botanical Gardens and Steve was to tackle the surf along Lake Michigan.  Later we planned to meet up with some friends for dinner on the north side of the city before heading south around the city and back to NE Indiana into the wee hours of the morning.  Whilst the latter plans were complicated by severe rain and traffic issues for all parties, it turned out to be an “easier” part of our itinerary!

Our wacky adventures began soon after we pulled into the campground along the shores of Lake Michigan.  Up first:  hooking up the electrical.  Not!  For the next several hours we battled a worn breaker system that kept tripping no matter what we did to avert the issue.  Was it the breakers in the trailer that were overloaded?  The eroded contacts in the refrigerator switch plate that requires a few minutes of babysitting to turn on? Figuring this out required much problem-solving with wifey-poo dressed in early Spring/Winter garb, very weary from travelling and following orders from the friendly but not-so-helpful front office staff.  To sort this out, we ran our extension cord to a few adjacent sites to no avail.  Very likely it was the campsite breakers that were worn and not our camper since everything had worked fine at home the day before.  Too bad the real on-site expert had the day off!

Finally my husband figured out two work-a-rounds:  1)  hooking up our battery charger to the battery to run the water pump and 2) running our 100-foot extension cord to a 3rd campsite and through the kitchen area window to run the electric heater.  In the morning I disconnected the heater and attached it to my blow dryer to make some order of the bed head that came with the morning.  What about just taking a shower you ask? Well don’t!  That didn’t happen . . . for me anyways.  The campground did not have water or sewer hook-ups so we had filled our modest, 30-gallon water tank at home thinking it would be enough for bathroom needs with quick “Navy-style” showers.  We were wrong. Steve did get a shower . . . then a paddle in Lake Michigan . . . then another shower in the only open bathroom facilities in the campground.  I made the most of things and had a quick cooooold sponge bath before heading out to the seminar!  Oh well.  I was definitely AWAKE for the day of lectures to follow!

A few other tidbits further enhanced our experience such as Steve gashing his lip on the rusted breaker box in the midst of trying to figure out things!  So glad for our first aid supplies!  Then there was the brand new hot water pot that I had plugged in through the cord dangling in kitchen window to make some hot tea ended up not working; I used an electric frying pan instead!  Additionally I took every remedy that I had with me to ward off noxious symptoms from ongoing illness and to consume before-and-during the seminar (with copious amounts of food-n-bacon, of course).  And guess what?  The seminar was incredible!  Steve had a great time paddling our outrigger canoe 7 miles along the lake shore and the pup got in a few long walks at the beach.  Cool beans.

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Forrest Gump logic applies very well to almost all of our camping experiences these past 3 years:  you never know what you are going to get!  This trip was no different.  We are now home and pooped.  Massive loads of laundry and cleaning are now underway to decontaminate everything for our next adventure having something to do with trailer demolishen derby races or something.  With our luck, let’s just hope we don’t end up on the figure-8 track.  Should be fun.  Or maybe not.  I’ll be sure to letcha know.  Eeeeek!

JJ

It isn’t camping unless something goes awry

This trip was much like any other in terms of the massive preparation it takes to go camping!  There is always lots of kayak paddling gear to gather, packing, meal preparation for 2 distinct dietary requirements, mega supplements and meds to pop into pill boxes, “just in case” remedies to pack, and so on.  The miles go quickly as we travel most of the day and into the night, with destinations generally east of the Mississippi.  I’m especially grateful for the opportunity to catch up on the little things with my beloved Steve as he drives us along since it’s crazy busy getting everything else done before we leave!  Add the last minute deliveries of my hubby’s side business as a Stellar Kayak rep and you will see how we usually get about 4 hours of sleep beforehand but alas, I’ll let him tell that story!

Our German shepherd got sick after taking herself for a swim in Lake Michigan when delivering a kayak on our way home.  Two vent covers on the Camplite either blew off or severely cracked, respectively, on our way from Indiana to Wisconsin requiring a series of duct tape-style repairs.  The placement of water and electrical outlets on opposite sides of the campsite required a creative workaround in the dark when we arrived at our destination.  Sweltering heat and humidity nearly wilted me into a pile of mush until we found shade underneath the belly of a DC3 (airplane) on display along the air strip at the EAA AirAdventure.  In addition, my usual pattern of nightly/morning convulsive spells continued every night and morning yet were no worse considering the increased activity level and exposures related to all of our activities.  Two friends flaked on meeting us for dinner during our stay.  Bummer dude.

But wait.  There’s more!  We ran out of propane and overflowed our gray water tank at the 2-day mark.  A mysterious water spot left us sleeping on the bare mattress cover our last night that might be condensation outsmarting the air conditioner + dehumidifier combination we employed.  And lastly, the rain chased us home a day early, allowing us to deliver the aforementioned kayak for Steve’s customer who was unable to catch a flight to meet us to pick it up.  That became the reason for a 2-hour side trip to Door County from Oshkosh and the fateful swim for our pup, Elle.  But hey, the landscaped gardens of their lake home were better than the magazine photos I had brought with me to pass the time . . .

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Enjoying cool shade under a DC3

So when you decide to take up camping you also decide to take up flying by the seat of your pants!  Little goes as planned!  We have come to expect always arriving later than expected to our destinations, spending more on gasoline than meals/souvenirs/camping reservations, and getting out the tools or duct tape at some point before returning home.  If you ask me, it makes the trip more fun!  I’ll take the crazy stuff of life on the road any day to the ravages of battling a serious illness and am grateful that I get to do so with my River Bear in the Tin Can Ranch a few times each year. Now that the 9 loads of laundry are done, I just have to clean the CampLite.  Soon I’ll be ready to pop the question again like the old Microsoft commercials use to say,

Where do you want to go today?

Maybe one day I’ll meet you on the road Gentle Reader.  Please bring your own duct tape, just in case!  JJ

EAA, Air Adventure, air show, wife, husband, travel

Steve and Julie at the 2016 EAA Air Adventure

 

Four-Wheeling in a Travel Trailer

getting lost, moon at night, moon, camping, campground, campsite, Georgia, November sky, October skyThe River Falls at the Gorge Campground promised to be a lovely place to be along the Tallulah River this past week.  Our reservations and multiple modes of directions were in tow with the GPS programmed to get us there, MapQuest directions handy between the seats, US Atlas turned to the State of Georgia, verbal directions written on our reservation confirmation sheet, and a back-up of directions from a Google search if needed.  But it was the map linked to the website of the campground that eventually got us there around 6:00 in the morning.  Yes, the River would be beautiful at sunrise . . .

But it didn’t go the way we had it planned!  Of course we knew that it would be a 12+ hour drive from Indiana but not over 15!  Well that sum includes completing the hook-ups once we arrived of water, electric and sewer.  O.K. so it’s kind of a modern way of “camping” yet still more rustic than the Bed-and-Breakfast accommodations to which I had become accustomed many years ago!  This is my version of “roughing it!”  There still is a lot more interaction with the elements than you might expect, (more on the mud another time!) especially trying to find a place in the dead of night on a long and twisty dirt road somewhere in northeastern Georgia.

“Something just isn’t right,” confessed my beloved Steve when the horse paths we were travelling on for almost 30 minutes ended in in 3 driveways, 2 of which were blocked by metal gates.  All of them had signs posted next to them from respective security companies.  Oh dear.  That would not be typical for a campground for sure!  It had been raining for hours and the dirt road was largely ungraded for heavy traffic, especially for a wide range of local to out-of-State travel trailers and motor homes.  How in the heck would a bus-sized RV ever make it up the road we had just traversed?  Yes indeed something was very wrong!

We decided to take some time to assess our situation.  We had already turned around twice on the main road, trying to find the campground which was supposed to be “one mile past the State park and off Highway 441.”  Well that just wasn’t our reality.  I reprogrammed the GPS and the scavenger hunt in backwoods was our third attempt to find our river-front paradise.  We had no other ideas at that time:  about 5:30 a.m.  We got out our umbrellas, Sure Fire flashlights, and hiked around.  Probably no one would mind at that hour that we were blocking everything with the 40-foot total length of my mid-size pick up truck and our 16-foot Camplite!  Steve walked closer to one of the open gates as I exclaimed, “don’t go in there!  There’s probably a laser light across the road that we might activate if we cross a line hidden by the trees!”  (I had seen this before in the homes of my home health care patients who lived in more remote areas.)  We backed away and looked up the rutted road that had led us astray.  We would need to re-trace our course.

Steve decided to pull out the manual for the brake controller and make some adjustments right there in the wilderness.  The timing was as crazy as it was brilliant.  An adjustment was sorely needed to manage the hills and valleys of our obstacle course back to the highway.  We were also concerned about the softening of the terrain as it continued to rain; four-wheel drive was already engaged.  And what if we were not alone out there?  I thought for a moment what I might do if a bear or wild hog might greet us before we had made our decision to get the heck out of there.  I was packing a pistol in my pocket but the caliber wouldn’t do much for a beast taller than my knees.  Oh yeah, I could flap the umbrella around and make a lot of noise.  Sure, that’s it!  Gratefully, we were alone out there having another Steve-and-Julie bonding experience and never encountered another soul.

Back down the road we went.  Steve made an incredible 5-point turn with the trailer in-tow with me scouting out the lay of the land outside in the dark.  I was never so grateful for having decided to wear my hiking boots during this trip.  Kind of odd, really, to wear them in the truck.  Kind of extremely helpful though in these conditions!  We bid our unknown neighbors “good night” as I hopped back into the truck whilst the sky was lightening slightly:  morning was breaking.

By the grace of God we found the campground with the re-programming of the GPS and retracing our original steps.  Funny, the campground was 1 mile from the State Park in the OPPOSITE direction than we had been instructed.  Had not we mentioned we were coming from Indiana?  Oh well.  We probably drove right past the place on our first pass through the area.  Chalk it up to the folklore of giving us directions with landmarks as if we were locals.  Sish.

While the light was out that illuminated the lettering on the building, the other lights clearly identified a big building just 200 feet or so from the road.  It was the office of the River Falls at the Gorge Campground!  We had made it!  A little more scouting, misinterpretation of a parking lot for the camp road, and final identification of our campsite out in the rain with the umbrelli brought us to a real stop for the next three days.  Steve hooked us up and I prepared the inside for us and our pup, Elle.  By 7:30 a.m., we were showered and asleep.

So what is the moral of this story?  Probably nothing!  We always seem to get lost trying to find our way in the wee hours of the morning in rural Georgia.  Yes, this has happened before when we landed at the end of a road in the woods just before daybreak trying to find Phil and Judy’s place a few years ago.  Maybe we will wait awhile before heading back to the land of boiled peanuts and peaches.  Yeah, that’s it.  Hey Babe, it’s time to GO WEST not South, my dear!  JJ

If I get to see you . . .

 

If I get to see you in the coming year, please understand that I will be singing songs of joy in my heart!  Social isolation has been one of the most devastating effects of serious illness from these past 3 years.  Should the Lord allow the circumstances for me to get out for an activity other than medical or a trip to the grocery store, I CELEBRATE!!!

So if I might ask for a few accommodations when we get together and you graciously oblige and I still get sick then blame any negative symptoms you may witness in me as the consequence of illness and not you!  Very few folks live in a “clean room” like we have here at home.  I did not clean at this level either until it was a matter of survival.  Steve did not engage in my extreme mold/contaminant behavior strategies until two years ago.  These strategies are necessary for this season of our lives together.  Overall I do better when we follow certain guidelines resulting in less reactivity, the worst of which are fewer seizure-like and convulsive episodes which continue daily.  We are implementing some “due diligence” from what we have learned to reduce my suffering with the goal of eliminating this illness altogether.  We believe that the Lord has allowed these trials for mysterious reasons and ultimately His glory.  He is good!

Both Steve and I recognize that there are definite signs that I am getting better.  We have trained our eye to search for even tiny changes in the pattern and intensity of episodes, pain, and reactivity to keep us hopeful that one day I will be well.  It is happening!  So please don’t be discouraged when either one of us might mention that I had a rough night or you witness a significant setback.  Recovery is a long, jagged line of progress, setbacks, and lateral “bunny trails.”  The overall trending is positive!

The most important accommodations that would be helpful if we get together are as follows.

Meeting in a public place:  Select a place with less noise and less loud music.  Newer buildings are generally better than older ones; please no historic buildings or ones with known basements or crawlspaces and history of flooding.  Restaurants that make their own food with fresh ingredients are better able to modify dishes to meet my food sensitivities.  This rules out most fast food places!  Letting me know the name and phone number of the establishment ahead of time will allow me to contact them with my needs and make the experience of ordering food more pleasant for both of us!  Please do not wear cologne or perfume that day.  I will need to greet you and depart with a “virtual hug” to avoid exposures to hidden elements that might be on your clothing or coat.  Forgive me if I sometimes forget this step in the joy of the moment when I see you!

Meeting in your home:  This is still a situation that I avoid since there are too many variables at this time that may cause serious problems.  I cannot come over if you have 1) ever had flooding in your home of any kind from a leaky toilet to a wet basement or 2) have older carpeting.  If you are willing to have me then please remove all fragranced products at least the day before we are scheduled to be together (such as plug-in or spray air fresheners, candles whether lit or not, potpourri, etc.)  Keeping windows cracked open in cooler weather or open in warmer weather to allow fresh air inside always helps (unless someone is burning something nearby outside!)  I prefer to visit in the area of your home without carpeting and sit on non-upholstered furniture.  Wood, plastics, and leather are best.

Staying overnight:  If we are invited to stay overnight then we will either bring our own linens, blankets and towels, or ask that you wash and dry everything in fragrance-free detergent and softeners (including dryer sheets).  Please replace a moldy shower curtain liner with a new one!  I will bring most of my own food and hand soap where possible.  Providing non-cured, non-smoked meat cooked only with salt, plain oatmeal, plain salad-type vegetables or zucchini/cauliflower without seasonings will be a HUGE treat!  I will always bring the extra condiments and food that I can tolerate.

Yeah, I know that this is a lot for a busy household to prepare!  Thank you for helping us out with this stuff.  Steve and I are exceedingly grateful to have recently obtained a travel trailer which has helped manage all of this tremendously well.  (It is a lot of work for us too, I tell ya!)  Both of our families and many close friends now live out of State so travel is necessary to see them.  This single change in our mode of travel has allowed me to leave our home overnight much more safely and go places from which I have been cut off for most of the past three years.  We are humbled and blessed!  I really like having a mobile safe house that has already opened up my world, provided privacy during setbacks on the road, and aided sleep with a really comfortable bed that can be hard to find when away from one’s own humble abode at home.  Thank you Jesus!

Visiting Daniel and Elizabeth in Alabama

Visiting Daniel and Elizabeth in Alabama

 

We are hoping that the ongoing extreme avoidance and dietary strategies are temporary; some level of precaution albeit more relaxed than the current level will likely continue for some time.  How long will we need to do all of this?  We simply do not know.  We believe the Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (or Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) is due to mercury toxicity and we finally have the correct treatment protocols to get me well.  I have excellent medical guidance and a proven treatment plan to follow.  We are hopeful that I will be in better health within this year!  I AM GOING TO GET WELL!!!

And that Gentle Reader, is much to celebrate!  JJ

Twas a dark and rainy night deep in the heart of Texas . . .

‘Twas a dark and rainy night deep in the heart of Texas.  We had just travelled over 1200 miles the past two days when the 5-pointed star on the black metal gate came into view.  In just a few minutes we would be safely in bed, asleep at last.  Or so we thought anyways!

Rain had sprinkled the roads without incident for the last few hours as our caravan had made its way from Indiana to Texas.  Since when does it rain in the Lone Star State?  Well it’s good for them but not for the weary travelers who must set up camp in the muddy grounds of my in-law’s ranchette.  As it should be, the horses roam free here and reminders of this are soft underfoot as we park near the barn.  Holy crap!

The plastic mat near the door, that I read on an RV forum to be a nifty idea, went from good to bad in a matter of minutes!  It would be another hour before we would realize that we should not wear shoes inside the newly outfitted travel trailer that would be our home for the week.  Remnants of Armani and Buddy would grace our socks and that’s just the way it would be.  Eventually we tucked our shoes underneath the camper to keep them dry.  O.k. That works!

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Our pup Elle adapted quickly to the wide open spaces.  I never really saw where she decided to potty over the course of our visit and that is just fine by me.  Eventually the mounds of racquet-ball sized horse manure would dry on all of us and we would figure out the clearest path from the trailer to the house in the daytime and in the nighttime too.  We simply opted to wipe Elle’s feet every time before she entered our humble abode for the night.  The rest of the time?  I just cannot account for that.  She settled in with the old girl lab, Leah, and darling retriever, Molly, in their respective pecking order and all was well with the world.  Elle would be depressed for days after returning home for having bonded with everything furry out there . . .

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But the tasks at hand upon our arrival to KK Ranch were not done yet as morning drew near.  Attaching our heavy duty power cord tripped the breaker in the barn no matter how my beloved Steve tried to configure it.  At 4 in the morning we just did not feel comfortable waking up Kyle and Katherine for advice.  Lights, refrigeration, and microwave/convection power would have to wait; we had what power we needed from our stored battery power.  Then in a stroke of genius, Steve attached the charger to the shore power via the smaller outdoor cord provided then attached the charger to the battery of the trailer.  Ola!  We had enough AC to run the lights and tickle the frig until we could figure out a better configuration in the daylight.  In the end Steve ran two separate cords from each of the two outlets to the camper:  one for the frig and a second one for the lights and electric heater.  We simply would not use the microwave for this leg of our trip.  No problemmo.

Then our attention turned to connecting water supply.  Most folks not familiar with trailer and RV camping have probably seen the American Lampoon and Robin William’s RV movies that magnify the importance of good sewer lines and running H2O!  If you don’t have access to fresh water, things go bad really fast!  Steve attempted to connect our two hoses to the spicket adjacent to the barn only to find that the short threading of the former prevented attachment.  No problemmo once again.  That’s why we brought extra water in case of an emergency for flushing the toilet, rinsing our hands, and nourishing the dog.  Within a day we were able to get everything together but the spicket leaked badly, flooding the ground around the barn.  Within another couple of days our gracious host purchased some new hoses, pulled everything together with a firm twist of a massive wrench, and all was well with the world.

The day we over-filled the black water tank underneath the trailer came as a surprise.  Only 3 1/2 days had passed and we were nearly maxed out!  By this point we had already dumped the gray water tank onto the ground ’cause hey, this is the country ya know?  A little soapy water from the sink and shower is good for the land anyways.  But dumping raw sewage even softened with an biodegradable enzyme tablet is not exactly the best gift to leave behind after a holiday weekend with relatives!  This created a dilemma for me.  I need to get up multiple times in the middle of the night pre and post-seizure episodes to use the facilities.  Walking 50 yards in the dark to go into the house would surely keep me up more of the night than would be advisable to sacrifice.  Somehow in the end, we made it to the max of our capacity just one day before departure and visiting the free dumping facilities of the Flying J truck stop north of Austin.  It is amazing how much “stuff” that tank can hold!

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And just when we thought the initiation of the newbie travel trailerers would be complete, there was one final challenge and it came in the light of day at the end of our stay.  Ya know, we don’t intend to use the television anyways!  My beloved whacked the T.V. antenna on a lower branch of a tree as we were preparing to leave KK Ranch.  The mushroom shaped projection on the roof got sheared off at its base leaving a black cord dangling mercilessly from beyond our reach.  Oh well.  Our roof is more streamlined now!

Arriving in a foreign land in the middle of the night poses a test of character for even the most seasoned of married couples.  In the end I had to smile at the interpretation each of us had at all of the unfortunate circumstances we faced together.  While Steve was facing the elements in the crud and cool evening air when we arrived, I was setting up camp inside our humble abode and taking care of the pup.  This is how we work as a team and that is nothing new for us.  We both get busy completing the tasks at hand.  The bigger picture was telling a different story however; we shared that one with each another after some sleep.

My beloved was concerned that I might be upset that he requested we drive very long days to get to our destination in just two days instead of the almost three days we spent over the same route last year.  Arriving in the middle of the night came as a consequence of driving 12 or more hours each day and leaving later than expected trying to get everything prepared for each leg of our journey.  On the other hand I was concerned he would be upset with me that we have to bother with all of this travel trailer stuff and expense to meet my health needs.  When the Lord graciously provided the resources to purchase a new-used unit and outfit it according to my sensitivity needs I did not realize that I had overwhelmed Steve with this project.  Making allergy-free cushions, finding the right wheel chocks, assembling enough linens from here and there, and so on was fun to focus on when so much of my time is spent in the throes of illness and recovery.  In the end we worked through all of it and had some fun creating this new memory together.

Somewhere in the middle of this night in a land far away is another starry-eyed couple making a cross country journey.  Somewhere in the course of things they will encounter wacky setbacks and have to go to bed with remnants of those unpleasantries still stuck to their feet between the sheets.  I hope that they too will discover the wonder of it all:  ’tis better to smile and say goodnight than to expect things to be perfect and crash into bed in a different heart-place.  “Trust the process” has been my mantra over many years as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and over many trials.  Besides if everything worked out right all of the time, what would we all blog about anyways?

Happy trails campers!  JJ