NOT ALL CAMPGROUNDS ARE EQUAL

You aren’t listening.  My friend was trying to convince me about the wonders of boondocking.  He was mansplaning, and not listening.  Boondocking is camping on open public lands far from other campers and conveniences.  I have no interest in boondocking.  NONE! 

I camped in Alaska, flown into remote wilderness, my favorite place Montague Island in Prince William Sound.  So I have done boondocking, and don’t have any interest in camping without running water or electricity.  I now enjoy full hook-ups: water, electric and sewer.  It isn’t as cheap as boondocking, but it is far more enjoyable and very comfortable.

My return to my Road2Reinvention travels began in early October.  I have stayed in four campgrounds; two public and two KOAs.  

Turkey Swamp Campground in Freehold, New Jersey was my first night back in Scout after her repairs at Colonial Airstream, at Lakewood, NJ.  It is great to be back in my comfy bed with Maggie on her blanket, she keeps my feet warm.  Turkey Swamp is a very nice county park with water and sewer and a convenient dumping station.  The bath house facilities are large and clean and there was a great deep sink for washing out pots and pans for tent campers.  From there I drove to Green Lane, PA for a Bus Depot event.  I planned to meet DC friends Liz and Tim in their VW pop-up.  Liz wasn’t able to attend due to late breaking Alaska politics, so it was just Tim and I.  The Bus Depot is a VW pop-up camper event and about 20 VWs showed up.  Don’t visit Green Lane Park, the facilities are TERRIBLE!  Campsites are nice size and wooded, but not level, and the bath facilities were gross.  I was happy to move along, and visit my friend Carol at her home in Coopersburg, PA.  We walked door-to-door for Susan Wild running for election to the U.S. House.   I was very heartened to speak with a woman who said as a lifelong Republican, she would be voting Democrat for the first time in her life.

Next stop Cape May KOA, and happily Liz and Tim both joined me there, with Maggie’s BFF Lola.  We celebrated dinner around the campfire complete with S’mores.  Cape May is a lovely little village and seaside resort at the tip of southern New Jersey’s Cape May Peninsula. The village is full of grand Victorian and gingerbread houses.  We toured the Emlen Physick Estate, a museum with restored interior from the era.   

An hour ferry ride from Cape May to Lewes, DE and on to Chincoteague Island, VA, were the ponies live in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (passport stamped).  I was lucky to see two ponies in the distance, too far away for an iPhone photo.  I gave my card to a photographer and asked if he got a good picture would he send it to me. The two ponies looked remarkably like the horse described in Misty of Chincoteague, a favorite childhood book.  Misty was described as a brown pony with a white spot on her back that resembled a map of the continental U.S.

Both Cape May and Chincoteague KOAs are nice camping facilities.  Especially Chincoteague with Glamping tents to rent, for those who want to camp, but sleep between clean sheets. 

I appreciate  the large clean bath houses with lots of hot running water.  The weather has turned cool and leaves are falling.  

I am returning to Washington D.C. tomorrow for two more weeks.  Scout’s hot water heater isn’t working so another visit to Airstream in Virginia.  Then on to North Carolina for Thanksgiving with family.

I am looking forward to southern travels and finding warm weather.  I really dislike the cold, and it feels like winter is coming on, too soon.

Joan Baez

Traveling by Airstream trailer I hoped never to fly commercial, but this weekend I found myself winging my way to Raleigh, NC on Southwest Airlines.  Back in March my eldest sister Becky and I bought tickets to take Mom to hear Joan Baez in concert.   It is a very late Mother’s Day present.  I had hoped to be in Scout, but repairs continue in New Jersey.

I am so grateful we did this.  Joan Baez is 77 years old and is on a farewell tour until next spring.   She performed in D.C. Friday night, the day after the continuation of the Judge Kavanaugh confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  While she certainly didn’t plan her concert to coincide  with a Supreme Court confirmation.  She looked to be enjoying the protest in the Hart Senate Office Building.

Baez told the audience she met the woman who had spoken to Senator Flake in the elevator that partially resulted in his proposed compromise resulting in the reopening of the FBI investigation.  I worked with Senator Flake on immigration reform and I am sadden he will leave the Senate at the end of the year.  His departure is understandable, he can’t get elected in Trump’s Arizona.  Senator Flake loves the institution of the U.S. Senate and worked with Democrats to get the deal.  Flake is a true conservative, but he is a very decent man.  I hope his deal results in the withdrawal of Kavanagh, but I doubt it.  On stage, Baez said she was inspired that the majority of protesters were millennials, but she laughed when she said they didn’t know who she was or her music.  A pity. 

I know one protester who is not a millennial, my dear friend and former colleague Madeleine.  Madeleine took the picture of Baez, and also got arrested with a big smile.  I should have been there with Madeleine.

Baez sang my favorite song, from her Big Guitar CD written by Steve Earle.  Christmas Time in Washington, the lyrics made me weep:

“It’s Christmastime in Washington
The Democrats rehearsed
Gettin’ into gear for four more years
Things now gettin’ worse
Republicans drink whiskey
And thanked their lucky stars
He cannot seek another term
They’ll be no more FDRs…

The unions have been busted
Their proud red banners torn…

So come back, Emma Goldman
Rise up, old Joe Hill
The barracades are goin’ up
They cannot break our will
Come back to us, Malcolm X
And Martin Luther King
We’re marching into Selma
As the bells of freedom ring

So come back Woody Guthrie
Come back to us now
Tear your eyes from paradise
And rise again somehow

I heard Baez in the 1970s.  Becky and I were strolling in downtown San Francisco and came upon a demonstration, Joan Baez was singing acapella and her voice reverberated over the civic center. 

Her voice was beautiful than and is amazingly strong at age 77.  Baez sang the anthems of the 1960s. Progressives, dare I say Liberals, still need anthems to inspire.

The trip was well worth it, even if I did have to fly.   Hearing Baez sing I Dreamed I saw Joe Hill, and Forever Young was wonderful.  What a voice.

Here is a link so you can listen too, and the full lyrics are below.

Christmas in Washington

It’s Christmastime in Washington
The Democrats rehearsed
Gettin’ into gear for four more years
Things not gettin’ worse
Republicans drink whiskey neat
And thanked their lucky stars
They said, “He cannot seek another term
They’ll be no more FDRs”
I sat home in Tennessee
Just staring at the screen
With an uneasy feeling in my chest
I’m wonderin’ what it means
Chorus: So come back Woody Guthrie
Come back to us now
Tear your eyes from paradise
And rise again somehow
If you run into Jesus
Maybe he can help you out
Come back Woody Guthrie to us now
I followed in your footsteps once
Back in my travelin’ days
Somewhere I failed to find your trail
Now I’m stumblin’ through the haze
But there’s killers on the highway now
And a man can’t get around
So I sold my soul for wheels that roll
Now I’m stuck here in this town
Chorus: Come back Woody Guthrie
Come back to us now
Tear your eyes from paradise
And rise again somehow
If you run into Jesus
Maybe he can help us out
Come back Woody Guthrie to us now
There’s foxes in the hen house
Cows out in the corn
The unions have been busted
Their proud red banners torn
To listen to the radio
You’d think that all was well
But you and me and Cisco know
It’s going straight to hell
Chorus: So come back, Emma Goldman
Rise up, old Joe Hill
The barracades are goin’ up
They cannot break our will
Come back to us, Malcolm X
And Martin Luther King
We’re marching into Selma
As the bells of freedom ring
So come back Woody Guthrie
Come back to us now
Tear your eyes from paradise
And rise again somehow
Songwriters: Steve Earle
Christmas in Washington lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, BMG Rights Management

City vs. Campground

Ironic, I live in a travel trailer and spend the majority of my nights sleeping in campgrounds far from a city center.  I love cities.  I dislike driving and prefer public transportation.  18 years living in Washington, D.C. traveling to work on the METRO either underground or on the X2 city bus. 

I enjoyed my commute, reading the newspaper (a real paper, paper), or a book.  Washington, D.C. is the most educated well-read city.  Sure, people had ear buds in their ears, but the vast majority of us were quietly enjoying our commute reading a paper or book.  More recently reading on phones or tablets.  It isn’t easy reading a newspaper when sitting on a crowded bus.  The other great part of public transportation is walking to and from the station.  In the suburbs people drive to a parking lot and ride into the city.  But living in the city allows you to walk to a bus stop or METRO station.   Watch-out for the commuters with ear buds, they can’t hear and will run into you.  I want to yell “Look-up!”  Better yet, “unplug”!  Enjoy your surroundings a beautiful city, great architecture, trees and parks — even monuments.  

I moved to Washington, D.C. from Carson City, Nevada in 1999.  Living on Capitol Hill four blocks from the Eastern Market METRO.  Mr. Jefferson was the METRO station manager, and instead of sitting in his glass booth, he stop at the entrance gates and greeted commuters with a big smile and a bigger “HELLO, GOOD MORNING, YOU ARE LOOKING GREAT!”  I stopped daily and chatted with him getting to know he enjoyed fishing on his days-off and was looking forward to retirement. A few years later Mr. Jefferson retired, and I missed his greetings.  I hope he is happily fishing somewhere and enjoying his retirement and union pension.  Mr. Jefferson proudly wore his union pin ATU 689 (Amalgamated Transit Union). 

In 2007, I purchased my home in North East Washington and began riding the X2 bus westward on Benning Road to downtown D.C.  The ride was a cultural experience.   I was often the only white person on the bus.  As we traveled closer to the city center other Caucasians would board, and the reverse trip white riders disembarked long before my stop at 17th and Benning Road.  By the time I sold my house in 2016, the bus was about half and half.  The gentrification of D.C. is ongoing.  In the past two years the character and construction of Benning Road is overwhelming.  Gone are the African-American Mom and Pop store front businesses.  Replaced by Whole Foods, Starbucks and luxury apartments, displacing long-term residents and businesses.

Washington, D.C. has become unaffordable to working people, the poor are most certainly unwelcome.  In the three years since I left my beloved adopted city high-rise luxury apartments are being constructed in every part of the city, especially in neighborhoods where whites would not have ventured only a few years ago.  I was one of those white people who bought a home in a black neighborhood.  Sister Robin on her first visit said, “Wow Alison, you even bet the gay guys into the neighborhood”.  My neighbor Vivian’s father was a chauffeur for President John F. Kennedy.   Other neighbors had been born in their homes, transferred down from Grandparents, to parents to children.  Jimmy Carter, was one of those neighbors born in the house he now owns, he was the Operating Engineer at the SEIU building where I worked.  The movie “The Butler” (which I recommend), depicted the Capitol Hill neighborhood where I lived.  I loved my neighbors and tried to be sensitive to the fact I was an invading gentrifying interloper.  I have always preferred to live in diverse neighborhoods. 

Washington is the world’s capitol, every nationality, offering marvelous ethnic food.  This past week I ate at a new upscale Peruvian restaurant Pisco y Nazca Ceviche Gastrobar.  The food was great, especially the Ceviche!  Within a few blocks there are restaurants featuring Indian, Ethiopian, Asian, etc, whatever your taste buds and stomach craves.  I prefer a hole-in-the-wall, family owned restaurants.  D.C. is losing the character and charm of small family owned restaurants, in exchange for up-scale and modern places.

For my fellow RVers, there are campgrounds around the Beltway in Maryland and Virginia.  You don’t need to drive into D.C., take METRO into the city.  Once in the city, there are great alternatives ZipCars and City Bikes provide short-term rentals.  Duck and Trolley tourist buses.  In addition, to Uber, LYFT, and taxis.  Walking in D.C. is the very best way to see the city.

My new Airstream lifestyle means driving distances and living outside city limits.  Visiting new places and far-flung friends, and seeing this beautiful country.  I try not to patronize chain restaurants, finding small local businesses especially when I can meet local patrons and engage in conversations.  The beauty of a travel trailer is unhooking setting up your campground home, and using your tow vehicle (in my case a Toyota Tacoma truck), or using public transportation to visit points of interest, city centers, golf course or wilderness areas.  You will more often than not find me in a city center cafe, theater or museum.  Walking not driving, whenever possible.

Friends ask, “what is your favorite place?”  I can’t say I have one — not yet. 

But, Washington D.C. is my favorite city.

UPDATE on TRAVEL:

Scout is at Colonial Airstream in Lakewood, NJ undergoing repairs.  I expect to pick her up after October 1.  Delay has allowed me more time in Washington, D.C. to see friends and former colleagues.  When we are back on the road I hope to avoid I-95 and take the coastal route south from Lakewood, N.J visiting Cape May, taking the ferry to Lewes, DE, and going to Chincoteague Island to see the ponies.  Thanksgiving in Cary, N.C. with family, then cross-country to Tucson, AZ and Palm Springs, CA for winter 2019.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

It’s time to hit the road, or maybe the road hit me.  After spending summer at sister Robin’s house in Westhampton, NY on beautiful Long Island; I drove east on the Long Island Expressway and got as far as Exit 56.  BLOW OUT!  Thanks to the NY Department of Transportation, and AFSCME members for repairing my 3rd tire incident.  NY finest came along and parked their big truck behind Scout to make sure we were all protected.  I am getting far too much experience with flat tires and pulling over to the side of the road from the middle lane at 60 miles an hour.

Four months on Long Island gave me time to install new MaxxAir fans, upholstery the dinette, made new curtains and cushion covers (see earlier posts).  

Long Island is beautiful, especially the North Fork where farm stands and wineries are popular attractions.  Sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes just can’t get enough, especially when making Caprese salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella made in Brooklyn. 

I didn’t play enough golf, but Maggie and I walked on Cupsogue beach most evenings.

I am ready to start moving around and exploring new places.  Scout (aka Airstream) is under repair at Colonial Airstream in Lakewood, NJ.  Repairs to hit-and-run damage from last spring.  Hopefully she will be road-ready in a week, with the addition of new tires!  I plan to drive along the Jersey coast to Cape May, take the ferry to Lewes, DE and visit Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.  My favorite book growing up was Misty of Chincoteague, I have downloaded the Audible version to listen to the book on my drive there.  I hope to add stamps to my National Park passport in 2018-19.  Anyone out there want to meet me along my road?  I hope so!

Mom, Erv, sister Becky and fiancee Chuck have survived hurricane Florence in North Carolina, they live west of 95 and far enough inland they only suffered rain and wind, and short electrical outages.   We have tickets to hear Joan Baez in concert in Durham on Sept. 29. 

I am currently visiting with Liz, Tim and Lola and enjoying Washington D.C.  It is always great to be back in “the Hood”, walking to Eastern Market and visiting our favorite dog park Congressional Cemetery.  I wish I had been financially able to retire in D.C., but like most American cities housing is astronomically expensive, so I am blessed with wonderful friends who live on Capitol Hill.  A week isn’t long enough to see all my great friends and former colleagues.  

Just call me Trailer Trash. The road beckons.

 

 

Some special memories of Long Island summer 2018.

Maggie at Cupsogue beach.

Robin’s pool and deck

Indian Island Golf Course, on the banks of the Peconic River.

Lavander farm stand.

Pikes Beach at sunset.

REMEMBERING 9/11

Last year on 9/11 I wrote this blog, I have updated it and wanted to share again my memories, and to commemorate my friends at 32BJ.  Peace.

17 years ago, I rose from the McPherson Square Metro to walk the 3 blocks to my office at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) office at 1313 L Street NW, Washington, D.C.  It was a beautiful Tuesday morning, no humidity and the air and sky were crisp and clear.  There was an announcement in the subway, which was garbled like all the announcements in the Metro.  All I heard was “blah, blah, blah…Pentagon”.  As I walked I realized there was an unusual amount of horns honking, traffic congestion and people streaming out of office buildings.

The city was in a panic, and the subway was now closed.  When I got to my building, a colleague told me the city was evacuating.  She offered me a ride home and we sat in traffic for an hour traveling only a few blocks.  Because she was trying desperately try to get home to her family in Maryland, I got out and walked home to Capitol Hill.   I am certain I got home before she did.

A few day later, I was sent to New York to assist SEIU 32BJ in navigating the federal, state and local government bureaucracy.  32BJ is the largest building services local union with membership of cleaners, property maintenance workers, doormen, security officers, building engineers, school and food service workers, and window cleaners.  24 union members died on 9/11. “Roko Camaj spent nearly half of his life suspended from ropes over 1,300 feet above ground working outside of the original World Trade Center. Born in the small Balkan country of Montenegro, he immigrated to the United States in 1969″.  Another window washer was instrumental in saving lives, “A man standing next to Jan Demczur reached into the window washer’s bucket and seized the Squeegee handle. It took them 90 minutes from the moment the elevator cab had halted in the shaft, but they reached safety only minutes before the tower collapsed—the second tower to do so. The tool that saved their lives, the Squeegee handle”  The handle is now part of the Smithsonian exhibit at National Museum of American History.

Why on earth was I being sent to New York, what could I possibly do to help?  I was a Legislative Advocate (Lobbyist).  But my experience representing public employees and understanding the unemployment compensation system and other government programs would come in handy.

In the mist of such tragedy, the benefits of union membership were paramount to the 1200 plus workers who lost their livelihood.  The buildings were gone and so were their jobs. 

32BJ offices were only a few blocks away from the World Trade Center.  Those blocks were filled with pages and pictures, “have you seen this person”.  I am haunted by those pages fluttering in the wind.

Yet I was incredibly proud and privileged to have met and helped union members in the days following 9/11.  I was concerned that some of the janitors might be undocumented, but the World Trade Center was the premiere building in New York City.  The least senior janitor had worked in the building over 10 years.  They weren’t undocumented, but there were major language barriers to overcome.

I remember one woman who had been a school teacher in Eastern Europe, because her English was not very good, she worked as a cleaner.  She had been cleaning the same floor of the World Trade Center over 15 years.  She was my age, single, while educated but worked as a janitor.  Her English was still not very good after years of being a U.S. citizen, because as a cleaner she didn’t converse with co-workers every day, she worked alone.  There by the grace of being born in the U.S. I really identified with her.  She was along, no family and her co-workers spoke many different languages.  But her union family took care of her.

The union officers and staff worked to get all the members onto unemployment as quickly as possible.  The NYC phone system had collapsed, because of the thousands of people who lost their jobs that day.  Also the unemployment system only offered translations services in Spanish and some Chinese.  32BJ workers were from all over the world, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia.  We helped them fill out paper applications giving each member personal assistance.

Each day a union meeting was held on the first floor of the union building.  32BJ leadership told all the displaced workers and their families the union was going to get everyone back to work.  In addition, the union extended health insurance and granted a supplement $100 unemployment benefit from the trust funds.  At those meetings workers cried and hugged each other, proud to be union members and treated as an extended family.  The union was able to negotiate an early retirement program so that older workers could retire and the 1200 displaced World Trade Center workers move to other buildings.  The union got everyone back to work in 6 months, without any government assistance.

I was incredibly privileged to attend those meetings and see firsthand the joy expressed by workers who had experienced such loss and tragedy.  I feel guilty that week was one of the best of my career.

Each anniversary of 9/11, I remember the wonderful 32BJ members, staff and officers.  Why I am proud to have been a union member, and now retiree.