Stuff!

The other night I was working in the Myrtle Beach camp store and a Grandmother was treating her grandson to shopping.  They brought a few things up to the register, one of which was a Davy Crockett fake fur hat. The Grandmother said to the boy, will you wear this?  I spoke up and said, you aren’t going to wear that silly hat.  The boy acknowledged he wouldn’t.  They left with some candy and stickers.  After they left the staffer said we were to encourage sales.  I replied that was not a consumer philosophy I could support.  We buy stuff we don’t need and it is suppose to make us happy?

In 2016 when I sold my three story Washington D.C. row house, and got rid of most of my worldly possessions I thought I was done visiting donation bins.  Naught.  In 2016 I wrote about getting rid of my stuff, click link. 

I can’t believe after living in a 20 foot Airstream I still have too much stuff.  I always have a plastic sack under the dinette for stuff to drop in a Goodwill bin.  But this month as the temperatures drop, I pulled all the plastic tubs from under my bed and did another purge.

How many pairs of black pants do I need?  Two, one to wear and one in the dirty close hamper.  Same goes for leggings and tops.  I really don’t need all these clothes.  I hate to admit it, but when you live in an travel trailer in campgrounds wardrobe is not your primarily consideration.  I can wear the same clothes for several days, especially when I am doing fire pit duty.   In the category of TMI, I can go several days without showering, when not on fire pit duty.  Sad but true.

This month I have reduced stuff and eliminated several plastic storage bins.  Progress to having nothing, and ‘poof I will disappear’.

I realize retail workers are suffering, not to mention the stores they worked in.  Our economy is based on consumerism, but with the virus and so many stores closed, maybe we can learn to do with less.  

I know I can.

Kiptopeke to Myrtle Beach

Kiptopeke is yet another beautiful VA state park at the tip of the peninsula that separates the Chessepeak Bay and Atlantic Ocean. The campground features full hookup RV spaces, (unusual in public campgrounds) and tent camping, yurts and cabins.  The RV spaces are crowded into a central area,  the tent sites are more secluded and wooded.  Kiptopeke has lovely well marked walking trails and a great big beach.

Possibly the strangest breakwater is the impressive 100-meter long sunken concrete ships, that served in WWII.

Kiptopeke State Park's famous concrete fleet. Kiptopeke State Park on Virginia's Eastern Shore.

“The ships were ordered by the US Maritime Commision in 1942 during a steel shortage brought on by the second world war. Steel was scarce, but concrete was inexpensive and readily avaialble. The contract was awarded to McCloskey and Co. and construction began in July of 1943 in Tampa, FL. All in all, two dozen concrete ships were built and served throughout WWII. Two of the ships even saw combat missions. “

October is a beautiful month for camping on the Eastern Shore, no humidity and cool evenings perfect for campfires.   As a campground host one of the fun duties was selling fire wood to campers, they loved it when we brought wood directly to them at their campsites.  I loved it when they had exact change.  The hosting duties were easy the usual cleaning of fire pits, and checking site tags.  

Maggie and I enjoyed a beautiful October with several 80 degree days.  Biding farewell at end of October to head sound for the winter I was happy to make a weekend stop back in Cary, NC with sister Becky and brother-in-law Chuck.  We all did some election poll greeting for the Democrats and watched the evening poll results together.  Tuesday night was very disappointing, but aren’t we all happy the election turned our way later in the week.  Becky’s pumpkin pie mate election night delicious if not celebratory.

But our collective bad dream is finally coming to an end.  And, thank goodness for vote by mail and early voting.

In the fall of 1998, I lead the AFL-CIO program to re-elect Senator Harry Reid, and elect Democrats to the state legislature. Ten full-time walkers and bus loads of Californian’s coming every weekend in late September through the election.  Our ground game was to get voters to early vote or vote by mail.  I have been an advocate for both ever since.  

After weeks of 12 hour days, all I wanted to do was go to bed the minute the polls closed.  My cell phone rang early Wednesday morning to report we were going into a statewide hand recount of ballots.  It was another couple of weeks before the election was finally called for Senator Reid by a landslide of 428 votes statewide.  The majority of those votes came out of Washoe County so our work paid-off, but I would live to regret getting Harry re-elected.   

The very next year I would move to Washington D.C. and become a Legislative Advocate for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).  Over the next 17 years I would attend many meetings with Majority Leader Reid.  He would tell the very same story at every meeting, and ring his hands as to why he couldn’t do anything because he didn’t have 60 votes.  Rather than fight a good fight, he would just move on to the next bill.  Rather than,  “GO TO THE MATTRESSES!”  Not good old Harry.  

Remember Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Jimmy Stewart standing on the Senate floor?  That movie depicted when Senators would really filibuster,  giving speeches, reading nursery rhymes and recipes for hours in an effort to wear the other side down.  Not Harry, he’ll go down in history as one of the worst majority leaders, giving up the 60 vote rule.

Oh well, the U.S. Senate is badly broken for many reasons, and I only hope President Biden can work with his old colleague McConnell and get real stuff done for the American people.  Compromise isn’t a dirty word, but the newbies think it is.    The real news is Trump’s recounts won’t amount to anything,  Biden will be POSTUS and Harris will be VP.  Yippee!

We can only hope for a return to civility, respect and good public policy.   Let’s hope.

I am now enjoying Myrtle Beach State Park.  Here the hosting is a bit more serious, working 8 hour shifts in the camp store, ranger station or cleaning fire pits.  There are over 300 campsites, in addition to public use picnic areas.

There were horses on the beach Veteran’s Day weekend, and this week we are experiencing some rain. I plan to play at least one round of golf each week.  I am going to stay at Myrtle Beach until February 2021 and head south to Florida for the winter.  I am looking forward to 2021, saying goodbye to Trump and 2020.  

James River & Kiptopeke VA State Parks

James River was my 4th campground hosting experience, and it was the most difficult and most remote.  Not having cell service or internet service was tough, but the actual duties made this hosting the most physically demanding.  Each campground has it’s own assignments, but at James River, I was driving a very old Chevy pick-up truck I fondly named “the beast”.There was an old bed pillow filling in for the seat that once was, it looked like a critter had eaten the seat.  The doors wouldn’t stay closed and would swing open when driving down the very bumpy roads.  If the driver’s side door was closed I had to reach out of the window to open it from the outside.  This is a photo of the driver’s side door.

But the very best part, she said jokingly, was the fact the tailgate did not open.  Cleaning the firepits is the number one assignment, so lifting the buckets over the tailgate was very challenging.

Thanks to two 90 minute massages at Massage Envy, I am able to move again.

James River is in western Virginia nestled in the foothills of the “Blue Ridge Mountains, the park features rolling grasslands, quiet forests and beautiful views, as well as 3-mile trail along the James River”.  Located in Buckingham County, it is north of Appomattox and south of Charlottesville.

In addition to the regular campground, there is an equestrian campground complete with horse stalls and large parking for trucks towing horse trailers.  I was the “horseshoe” host and a good thing I love horses!  I wished for my cowgirl pal Beth and my favorite horse Hope, we could have joined the campers for trail rides.  There are miles of beautifully maintained trails for people, bikes, and horses at James River.

I was grateful that Dave and Ann came to see me in their new Airstream, named Tin Man.  We had a lovely visit as always good food, wine, and lots of cards and games.  Our first dinner was on the banks of the James.

I was responsible for Branch Pond, a remote area of 7 campsites down a 3-mile road, in addition to the Equestrian and riverfront campsites. If you are planning a trip to James River don’t forget your enter tube, your horse, and a satellite telephone!

I am so glad to be back on the eastern shore at Kiptopeke VA State Park.

“Kiptopeke State Park is a state park located in the southern end of the Eastern Shore of Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula in Northampton County, near Cape Charles. From 1949, the site was owned by the Virginia Ferry Corporation and used through 1964 as the northern terminus for the Little Creek-Cape Charles Ferry service which crossed the lower Chesapeake Bay from the Eastern Shore / Delmarva to Norfolk and Hampton Roads harbor on the Western Shore. In 1964, the ferry service was replaced by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel which opened up giving automobile traffic convenient access to the park, the Cape, Delmarva, and “The Shore” to the urban centers to the west in North CarolinaVirginiaMaryland, and the District of Columbia.”   I love being close to VA Beach and Trader Joe’s.

Like other VA state parks, Kiptopeke and James River have “yurts” which are half tent, half cabin, and five new sunfilled cabins that sleep up to 16 people, in addition to the RV and tent camping.  We have a lovely sunny spot. Liz, Tim, and Lola were here last weekend in their VW popup, and Becky and Chuck are visiting this week staying at the newly remodeled Cape Charles Hotel.  Where we watch the VP debate and played our favorite board game Ticket to Ride.

We have enjoyed exceptional weather yesterday at the beach and today walking some trails to see eagles and hawks.  There is a new app for walking (aka hiking).

A new Avenza Map app uses GPS technology and specially created PDFs to communicate with satellites. As you proceed through the park, you show up as a blue dot for a moving “You Are Here” map on your mobile device. You’ll need a cell signal to download the map, and battery life to help you find your way. All the VA state park maps are available for download to your phone. So hopefully, you’ll never get lost, unless you want to!
And, you know I can get very lost!  Stay tuned.
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OFF THE GRID

Sorry for not writing sooner. 

September 1, I traveled to western Virginia to host at James River VA State Park.  For the first time in my camping experience, I was really off the grid.  I wasn’t able to make it the full month of September, as planned.   Yes, I am a news junkie, and having no radio or internet reception, I was going a bit mad.   In the four years, I have been a vagabond in my Airstream trailer it has been extremely rare not to have internet thanks to my AT&T hotspot.  The point of going camping is to get away from it all.  But at James River VA State Park while beautiful, was way too remote for me.   I thought I could handle being off the grid for a month, NAUGHT.  I had to drive 20 miles to Appomattox to get cell service.

After two weeks I was ready to get back to the coast, cell service, and the internet.  I prefer oceans to mountains anyway, however, rivers or lakes will do in a pinch.

Each trip into Appomattox to check-in with Mom and download email I passed this sign.  In these days of our divided country, I found this sign unsettling.  Were we ever really reunited?

August at First Landing Campground at Virginia Beach at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay was great!  I was able to swim every day after my hosting duties of cleaning out the fire pits, and I could shop at Trader Joe’s!  What’s not to like?  First Landing is my first choice for hosting in 2021.

I had a Karen’ moment on my first day.  In my lifelong camping experiences, campgrounds are generally full of white people, some flying confederate flags.  Recently, I listened to an NPR podcast Being Outdoorsy when Black or Brown, discussing why camping is so full of white people who are amazed when they see black or brown people.   Of course, we all know about the bird watcher in Central Park. 

So on my first day at First Landing, I was very surprised to see so many different ethnicities: Vietnamese, Philopenas, Koreans, browns and blacks.  Why shouldn’t everyone enjoy camping and love of the out-of-doors, regardless of ethnicity?   Go to any city park on a Sunday afternoon and see who is enjoying our public green space.

My ‘Karen’ moment came when I asked a large group of Asian campers, “is this a family gathering?”  Opps, seems there is a huge Asian population in VA, and they like to camp!   It is our diversity that makes America really GREAT!

When I lived in Washington, D.C. I often walked to the National Mall.  I was always so taken by the hundreds of tourists from all over the world who came to have their pictures taken in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol.  There aren’t adequate words to explain the symbolism of our Capitol to the rest of the world.  I only hope we can survive the divisiveness of our current politics and restore our nation as a beacon of light and hope, not hate.

In the last four years, I have enjoyed some of the most beautiful places the U.S. has to offer.  Our National Parks, as well as state and local public parks, as Ken Burns, portrayed in his documentary America’s Best Idea.

I will be resuming my hosting schedule on October 1, when I  will be at Kiptopeke VA State Park.  Then on to Myrtle Beach State Park for November and December.  All with cell and internet service, and beaches, I hope.

Bailing on James River has given me time to spend with family in N.C.  Becky and I are doing door hangers for the Democratic Pary of Wake County, and I voted early!  We are also sending voters postcards.  This will be the first election I haven’t gone door-to-door to actually talk to voters. 

I will be writing more about James River, so Stay tuned.

 

 

LIFE IN THE DAYS OF COVID-19, MASKS REQUIRED

Mom is locked in at Carolina Meadows; Robin is home on Long Island; Kerry, Buzz and Connor are social distancing in Anchorage; and Becky and Chuck are allowing me to visit on my days off from campground hosting.  I am happy to report my family is all healthy.

Niece Rachel and husband Adam are excited to be moving into their new home in Madison, WI.  Nephew David and Camilla stationed in Italy are awaiting the arrival of baby #2.  Our family Zoom calls cross time zones from Italy to Alaska.

I have been extraordinarily lucky after canceling my summer road trip to Maine to get plum campground hosting assignments on short notice.  Free campsite with full hook-ups for a month, a savings of over $900+.  Maggie is camp host extraordinaire; she must say hello to every camper wagging her tail and getting lots of belly rubs.

A few dead catfish left on the bank by inconsiderate fishermen, a few toilet malfunctions, and loss of power at some campsites on super hot days, because of airconditioning and other electrical surges, so far have been my emergencies.  Campers will knock on my door, and all I do is call the on-call ranger.  I have had two wonderful campsites at Westmoreland and Occoneeche, but Henderson Point on the North Carolina side of Kerr Reservoir wasn’t a good site and I had to cancel my hosting for August.  

No worries, as soon as I left Henderson Point there was a call for a hosting slot at Virginia Beach First Landing State Park, the scheduled host had a family emergency so I will fill in.  How lucky am I?  Then on to James River VA State Park, in September and Kiptopeke VA State Park, for October.

I am making a quick trip to Ashville, NC this weekend to visit Carole Travis friend and former SEIU colleague, from six feet away!  Hope a few of the micro-breweries Ashville is famous for are open with outdoor seating?  It might be a bit cooler in the mountains, as well with less humidity.  It will take me two days to drive from Ashville to Virginia Beach.  Will be wonderful to be on the beach again!

The really great news is I am confirmed at Myrtle Beach State Park for November and December.  This is a huge park and there are 3 other hosts for over 300 campsites, and it is expensive to boot.  So free camping is totally amazing and will help with paying my green fees! 

My motto: Gas, Groceries, and Green Fees!

I am happy to report that no cleaning of bathrooms is involved in any of my assignments.  I guess that would be the only silver lining of the COVID-19, state parks are being especially careful and have hired additional cleaning staff.  At both Westmoreland and Occoneeche State Parks, my duties were simple cleaning fire pits after campers left and twice a day making the rounds to see campers were in the correct sites.  Hosts are provided with utility golf carts.

Many of these parks have cabins to rent, so if east coast friends are looking for outdoor opportunities for social distancing check out the VA park website.

With the election fast approaching, I won’t be knocking on any doors.  I have worked door-to-door campaigns in Alaska, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  I hate phone banks, so glad activists are using handwritten postcards to reach out to voters.  The NAACP provides everything you need, stamps colored pens, a script (which you know I don’t follow), and 20 names and addresses.  Easy to do from any campsite!

In closing, I hope everyone is watching Mary Chapin Carpenter’s YouTube videos Songs from Home. Singing from her kitchen with her dog and cat as the audience, she closes each episode with, “Stay safe, stay healthy, stay mighty”.  I have adopted her closing, it seems very fitting in these challenging days.  So, you know what to do, “Stay safe, stay healthy, stay mighty”.

And of course, stay tuned for my next blog please subscribe by entering your email below Maggie’s picture on the right-hand side of the webpage.