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.  

CAMPGROUND HOSTING

When my summer travel plans to Maine were canceled due to the COVID-19, I had to make other plans.  Who knew what parks would be open?  I knew pools and bathhouses might also be closed.  Some are some aren’t.  Pools are closed.

What about campground hosting? 

I contacted the Virginia state volunteer coordinator and got lucky!  Previous hosts get the first choice, but many hosts were making other plans.  Thus, I found myself hosting at my first choice Westmoreland State Park in Montross, VA.  The beauty of an RV lifestyle is the ability to change plans on short notice.  Thankfully, I had not yet paid my FL space for June, so I gave notice, packed up, and arrived on June 2.  Westmoreland is just down the road from Washington, D.C. my old stomping grounds.  The bathhouses are open, and VA has hired cleaning staff for additional protection.  Unfortunately, the pool is closed.  Westmoreland is described as:

On the Potomac River’s Northern Neck, Westmoreland is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has an Olympic-sized swimming pool and an adjacent bathhouse, meeting area, snack bar, camp store and power-boat ramp. You’ll also find a visitor center, campgrounds, camping cabins, cabins, a playground, a fishing pier, boat rentals and 6 miles of trails. Fossil collectors enjoy hunting for ancient shark teeth along the Potomac. Offshore breakwaters are great for fishing. Birding enthusiasts find the park an excellent site for spotting American bald eagles, ospreys, kingfishers, great blue herons, common terns, green herons and gulls, as well as wintering waterfowl. Its waterfront location provides docking space at a boathouse. Murphy Hall, atop Horse Head Cliffs, offers a superb view of the Potomac River.

Hosting is easy duty.  I do twice daily campsite checks, making sure campers are in their proper spots, and after campers leave I clean the fire pits in the handy utility golf cart.

In July I will move to Occoneechee State Park, in southern VA on the NC border, near Clarksville, Virginia. “Occoneechee State Park is 2,698 acres in size. It is named for the Occaneechi Indians, who lived in the area. “Bacon’s Rebellion abruptly ended their prominence in 1676”.  So much history in VA and NC, and everywhere.

In August I move across the border to host at Kerr Lake State Park in NC.  If you read my earlier post I was supposed to go to Cliffs on the Neuse, but decided cleaning bathhouses was more than I wanted to do.  I again got very lucky to find hosting slots on short notice.

Three visitors have come to hang with me around the campfire.  Dave and Annie in their brand spanking new Airstream maiden voyage, and Tim in his not so new VW popup!  It is great hosting in VA, so friends can come and visit outdoors and still be socially distant.

There is nothing nicer than friends around a campfire, and marshmallows.  Last week we had exceptionally wonderful weather with no humidity.  It didn’t feel at all like June.

Occoneechee has Forty-eight campsites available for tent and RV campers on the shores of the John H. Kerr Reservoir, better known as Buggs Island Lake. The park also has 13 cabins for those of you who don’t own camping gear, that provide the comforts of home as well as beautiful views of the lake.   Come VISIT!

 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Tropical Storms

Wake me up from this bad dream!  I am experiencing wild and crazy dreams, more than usual.  But nothing in my dreams ever envisioned a worldwide pandemic.  

I am still enjoying my extended stay at Jensen Beach, FL, and will be here until the end of June.  Two months longer than originally planned.  If you must be socially distance and quarantined Hutchinson Island ain’t to bad.  Ocean access even when public beaches are closed, and Michelle and Duane’s pool for afternoon swims.

Recently the Wall Street Journal reported that RV rentals and sales are through the roof.  In the days of the virus, who wants to fly commercial or stay in hotels?  Check out Outdoorsy, an Air B&B for campers near you!

As I wrote earlier my summer travel plans collapsed due to the virus. I was so looking forward to seeing OH, MI, WI, and ME friends and family.   After canceling best-laid plans and numerous campground reservations, I embarked on becoming a campground host.

Campground Hosts volunteer to augment the park staff, helping clean up campsites, greeting campers, selling firewood, and monitoring campers’ compliance with rules.  Keeping dogs on their leash (did you watch the YouTube video of Central Park, yikes), no loud parties during quiet hours, and in some assignments cleaning the bathhouses. You might recall my earlier career as a fleet service worker for Alaska Airlines, cleaning the biffy!  I always felt great comradery with the janitors I served while working for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).  So cleaning toilets and showers for free camping seems like a fair exchange.  I have had 28 different jobs in my lifetime, and in my experience, you can do just about anything for a short time.  Although I have always had someone else clean my homes, since the day I was able to afford it.

But I digress.  I will be spending summer and fall in North Carolina working as a campground host at three different state parks.  I hope to be able to regale you, readers with some funny stories.  I hope they will all be funny.  All within driving distance of Chapel Hill and Cary where family lives.

Beginning July 1, I will be at the Cliffs of the Neuse State ParkNamed for the impressive cliffs overlooking the Neuse River, has been a landmark for centuries. Five hiking trails explore the riverside habitats and their mature forests and lead to some quiet fishing spots along the waterway. A favorite facility for the local communities is an 11-acre swimming lake with a bathhouse, grass-covered lawn, sandy beach and diving platform with rental boats available. Expansive picnic grounds are nearby. The park has group campsites, a 32-site family campground, and 3 reservable cabins. A visitor center offers museum-quality exhibits that explore the natural and cultural history of the region, complementing regular interpretive programs.

August 1, I will move to Kerr Lake, pronounced ‘CAR’.  A collective of seven access areas scattered around the shoreline of this 50,000-acre reservoir that reaches into Virginia. Hundreds of campsites among five of the access areas offer a range of outdoor experience from RV hookups to group camps. Swimming, boating ramps and two private marinas serve boaters and the lake is renowned for excellent fishing.

September, October and November I will be at James Lake, a great time place to enjoy fall colors.  According to the NC State Park website, James Lake is best for my hiking friends, Jamie?  I will be the host at Catawba River Area that has 20 walk-in campsites, but I will have full hook-ups!

Lake James State Park offers boating, swimming and fishing in the beautiful, clear waters of the 6,812-acre lake, there are 25 miles of trails, 15 of which are open to mountain biking. Trails vary from the short, educational Holly Discovery Trail with child-friendly activities, to the more adventurous, historic section of the Overmountain Victory Trail. There are three campgrounds. The Catawba River Area has 20 walk-in campsites, many of which offer lake views. The Paddy’s Creek Area has 33 drive-to, family-friendly campsites. The remote boat-in campground on the Long Arm Peninsula offers a true outdoor adventure for those willing to paddle or steer their canoes, kayaks or powerboats to their own slice of heaven. Boat ramps at Hidden Cove and Canal Bridge on NC 126 are located between the park’s two day-use areas. And, canoe, kayak and paddleboard rentals are available at the Paddy’s Creek Area from May through September.

So to my camping, hiking and RV friends – you know who you are!  I hope to see you this summer or fall in North Carolina!  To make reservations for your visit log onto ReserveAmerica.com.

AND Yes, there are golf courses nearby.

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TWO TIRES vs. FOUR WALLS

I am not ready to live within four walls, and trade in my two tires.

After consideration of sister Becky’s generous offer of an empty 3 bedroom 2 bath house in Raleigh, I have decided to stay in my 20′ of living space and the outdoors.  Living in an unfurnished house, after just getting rid of the last of my housewares and 5×5 storage space — I just couldn’t do it, virus or no virus.

Fortunately, Becky was able to quickly rent the property and I have started to explore becoming a campground host.  In August I will be at Kerr Lake (pronounced ‘car’).  Kerr Lake State Recreation Area is a North Carolina state park on Virginia’s southern border. Located near Henderson, NC, the park includes 3,376 acres of woodlands along the shores of the 50,000-acre man-made Kerr Lake reservoir.  Hundreds of campsites among five of the access areas offer a range of outdoor experiences from RV hookups to group camps, and several swim beaches, according to the webpage.

Public campgrounds often have campground host positions.  Hosts serve as off-duty hour monitor when park staff isn’t working, greeting campers, some light maintenance such as trash collection, raking campsites for arriving campers and this summer monitoring social distancing.  For the month of service, I will have a full hook-up campsite (water, electric, and sewer) FREE.  At $30 per night, and a limit of 14 nights, for campers, a campground host can stay the full month at a savings of $930.

I am looking for other host positions in NC, South Carolina and Virginia for July, September, October and November.   It isn’t the trip I had planned for the 2020 summer, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, but it will allow me to continue my Road2Reinvention lifestyle and not have to worry about park closures.  That is of course if parks stay open and campers are responsible for social distancing and wearing masks.  Who knows what the future will be, but for now this is my plan for our new normal.

For those of you who enjoy camping, I hope you will consider coming to a campground where I am hosting this summer.  I’ll keep you posted on other assignments.  But for now, I am in Florida through June and will head north in July.

Please subscribe to this blog by adding your email address on the right side of the page below Maggie’s picture. Stay tuned.

A DRIFT IN FLORIDA

I am not ready to leave the beach, and my friend Michelle and Duane’s pool.  So I have extended my stay until June 1, before heading north.  If I needed a sign I made the correct decision, yesterday as Maggie and I walked onto the beach for our evening walk, what did I find?

A sea bean! 

To be exact: Thick-Banded Hamburger Bean.  Yes, they look like little hamburgers, but they are seeds!  They have traveled long distances from  Jamaica, or even as far away as the Amazon River.  Falling into a freshwater river traveling downstream into the ocean, only to land thousands of miles away on a south Florida beach.  The bean is a bit larger than a quarter.

“Mucuna fawcettii, was named by Ignatius Urban in 1908, from specimens found in Jamaica. Presently, it is a bit of a dilemma to those interested in drift seeds. The problem: This species has been described as being endemic to Jamaica… i.e., it grows ONLY in Jamaica. Additionally, there are statements that it is probably extinct from Jamaica (see: Perry & Dennis, 2003:179)… i.e., it probably doesn’t grow there…IF it no longer exists at the ONLY place that it grew, then why do we keep finding these seeds washed ashore?”

I will never know where my little sea bean came from, but I was so very excited to find it, these are very rare.  Could it be a sign?  Also, I shot an 89 golf score on Sunday.  A good sign of things to come?

Regardless, I am staying put on the Treasure Coast of Florida until June 1, enjoying Michelle and Duane’s pool, daily beach walks, finding shells and seeds, and improving my golf score.

Stay healthy everyone!