Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Archive for the category “climate”

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 25: Getting Hotter

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Not enough to be locked down by fear of the virus. For two weeks I have been locked in, surrounded in my bayside bubble by wildfires raging out of control to the north, to the east, to the south, and to the west. The outside air has ranged from Moderately Unhealthy to Hazardous, as a high pressure dome presses down on our region, keeping the sea breezes out and holding the ash and soot in.

The beginning of the maelstrom was a week of record-setting high temperatures, punctuated by a freak lightning storm which lit over 600 blazes in tinder-dry brush. We had a week of relief from the heat, and then it returned, with temperatures a full 25 degrees above “normal” for this time of year.

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September 7,2020

At the same time, in other parts of the country the most powerful storm ever to make landfall made its way from the Gulf to the Atlantic shore. The Weather Service is all the way to Rene in naming tropical storms, and the hurricane season has not reached its peak.

How can anyone look at these events and not be afraid, not for their own personal well-being, but for our planet? I have grand-children. Scientists have warned for a decade that what I live through in these weeks will be the “new normal” if we are not able to change our destructive patterns of life.

If no other good comes from it, the pandemic has shown us that, if forced and if fearful, we CAN cut carbon emissions by 7% a year. We CAN move out of cars and onto bicycles or our own feet. We CAN live without the latest Something New.

And the trusting faces of our children and grandchildren tell us we MUST.

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 12 – Silver Linings

I had an eerie experience today.  I drove south on a major freeway at 4:45.  I was driving to a destination about 15 miles from my house. Normally (at rush hour, going in the commute direction) it would have taken me nearly an hour to go 15 miles.  Today – 15 minutes.

I looked up from the road. Today was an unusually hot day, in the nineties. Normally, in that heat, smog would have blanketed the valley I live in.  I would be fortunate to see the foothills five miles away.  Today, despite the heat, I could see the mountains at least thirty miles away.  The observatory buildings at the top of the highest peak in our area gleamed white. No traffic = no smog.

This evening I heard laughter from across the street.  The family whose children are normally in camp or in nanny care while their parents are at work was outside in their front yard,  parents and children playing volleyball with an invisible net.

In hard times, divisive times, there is upside.

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 7: Nature’s soft side shows in Spring

Nature has been throwing  us a lot of nasties in the last months – pandemic, killer tornados, smothering snow, torrential rain, and historic drought levels, to name a few.  And then, as if to make up for the tantrums, she sends us a Spring as lavish and luscious as any I can remember.  From native-plant gardens,  to cultivated rose gardens, to bursting containers, everything that has ever thought of blooming in my own garden and my neighborhood is out-doing itself this year.

Above: Poppies, sage, lupine, and blue-eyed grass from a native-plant garden in a nearby park.

Above: calendula, roses, raphiolepsis and orchids in my own garden.

Above: ranunculus border, tulips, wisteria, and rhododendron from a heritage garden nearby.

Above: cultivated roses at a neighboring university campus.

I hope these pix refresh you a bit, especially those of you who are still snowbound as well as lockdown-bound.  Spring still arrives, in spite of everything!

Travels with a Tiny Teardrop Trailer – Day 6 (and conclusion)

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We wake up to sunny skies.  With deliberate speed we fix our breakfast (why does hot oatmeal never taste as good at home as in camp?), pack our gear (so much easier when it isn’t raining!) and amble down to the boat ramp at Schroeder County Park to check out the Rogue River flowing peacefully past. 20191023_110409web

Suddenly the peace is broken by a raucous noise reminiscent of several large garbage trucks operating their compacters and power brakes at the same time. But the racket is coming from over our heads!  It’s a giant straggling flock of geese, all greeting the morning as best they can as they soar past only 50 feet or so above us. (the photo is of a second, less large and less near flotilla which went over after I managed to get my camera ready.)

20191023_145043webAll is well as we head out.  We make a brief stop at Castle Crags State Park, as Sis wanted to show me where we would have camped if we had not been so delayed on Day One. When we saw the campsites in daylight, we thanked our lucky stars.  The trailer sites were sliced into a hillside, and not as level as one would like.  We would never have been able to maneuver the Tiny Trailer into one of those sites on our first night, in the dark, in the rain.  We make a brief obeisance to the stately rock towers above us, and move on south.

We are in California now, and looming ahead is the Mt. Fuji of the West, Mount Shasta, alone in the center of the Central Valley, lightly frosted with early October snow, welcoming us back.    We need to get the trailer back to its berth before end of day. And our husbands are waiting. Sis steps on the gas.   20191023_134727doc

End of our adventure.  Sis and I experienced weather, we dealt with sins of omission and commission, we saw places we had never seen.  But the memories that will live longest are those of family and friends who greeted and sheltered us.  Thanks, Bro, and wife C and Dr. Sam!  Thanks family!  Thanks, Sis, my travel partner!  Now onward!

Travels with a Tiny Teardrop Trailer – Day 4 (cont.)

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After a day  that included a museum tour, retail therapy, and beach walking in late afternoon sunshine, we make our way back to our campsite, looking forward to sitting around a campfire sipping wine while Bro fixes those delayed hamburgers on the Titanic‘s outdoor kitchen BBQ.   We get the fire going strong, the outdoor kitchen is activated, the burgers are ready to go and the wine is poured – and Bro has rolled out the awnings just in case. 20191020_095047(0)web

And a good thing, too.

Almost as soon as we have sat down in our camp chairs, we get another dose of Oregon weather. the sun disappears, the clouds roll down with the event of the day.  This time, it’s hail.  Serious hail.

 

Even Bro’s brave little moppet of a dog is awed by the onslaught.  But thanks to the strategic awning, the Titanic‘s  indomitable propane tank, and (let’s admit) the excellent wine, we are undaunted.  We sip, the burger sizzle, we  eat them inside the Titanic, where we are warm and dry.  The fire is the only thing dampened by the weather.

Will it rain on us all the way home?  Will we be able to reload those bikes we left behind at Bro’s house?   What route will we take back to sunny (we hope) California? Stay tuned!

 

Travels in a Teardrop Trailer – Day 3 (cont.)

 

Sis and I spend the morning unloading the wet tent, soggy chairs, and bicycles from the back of the Subaru and setting everything up to dry inside Bro’s garage.  Our plan is to have Bro help us load the bikes on the top of the teardrop when he gets home, so we can take advantage of those bike trails at the campsite.  Except it is still raining.

Bro planned to leave work early for a daylight departure on our two-trailer trek to Ft. Stevens State Park. Somehow that did not work out.  He arrives at 6PM, we finish loading the trailers, truck, and SUV by about 7. It is still raining.  The forecast is for more rain.  We decide to opt out of biking after all.  The bikes stay in the garage.  Everything else fits so easily now!  Off we go in the rain, following Bro’s Titanic.  We arrive at the campground at about 8:30.  The rain continues.  It is pitch dark.  Deja vu all over again.

But this time we have some better options!  To start with, Ft. Stevens State Park’s trailer sites are all pull-through.  No struggles to park! True, by the time we arrive and get set up it is too late and too wet for us to have the planned hamburgers grilled in the outdoor  kitchen of the Titanic.  But in our pop-up kitchen I happen to have all the ingredients for a one-skillet hamburger/noodle casserole which I had planned to offer on our return trip home.  C fires up the inside kitchen of the Titanic, and in 30 minutes we are cozily sitting around the table in the Titanic’s dining area, wolfing down the casserole with the help of a nice bottle of zinfandel from the Titanic‘s wine cupboard.recipe_doc

[You can see from the state of the page how often this recipe has been used.  You don’t need a “thermostatically controlled burner”. Enjoy!]

After dinner and dishes we are not ready to call it a night.  Sis pulls out a game gadget which she brought along just in case.  It’s called “Catchphrase” and is a combination of charades and trivia, driven by a little electronic gadget that one must toss from one team to the next between rounds.  We were in hysterics by the end of the game (how does one act out “Ozzy Ozbourne?”)

Finally we decide it is time to retire to our traveling bedroom next door.  It’s just a few yards to our trailer, and the rain seems not so heavy with a full stomach and recent laughter.  And so to bed.

Coming up in Day 4: Ft. Stevens by daylight, an old friend, a Hidden Gem, and (believe it or not) sunshine!

 

Travels in a Tiny Teardrop Trailer – Day 3 – Going Upscale

 

Sis and I wake up cozy, dry, and rested under my sister-in-law C’s handmade quilt.  After breakfast, C shows us around the new house, ending with the back balcony, which stretches the entire length of the house and is hung with blooming baskets of fuschias.  Looking out over the back yard, C points out the playhouse for the grandkids, the workshop for Bro, the outdoor patio and BBQ, and the storage space for the trailer.  There is a trailer in it. But wait – what about the trailer that is parked in the driveway, the one Bro had to maneuver our teardrop around last night in the rain?

“Oh, the one down there is our old trailer. The one in the driveway is our new trailer.  We’ve only had it for a week.  This will be our first real camping trip in it.”

C shows us and a couple of admiring neighbors around the new trailer.  The new trailer is almost 10 feet longer than the previous one. “We call it our mobile honeymoon suite,” she says, smiling, as she points out the king-size bed, the reclining chairs, the fold-out sofa, the full kitchen and bathroom, the pop-out barbeque kitchen outside, and the 2 widescreen TV sets positioned over the two fireplaces.

Our tiny teardrop looks like a tugboat positioned next to this land-based Titanic.  But the neighbors seem equally eager to explore the clever space usage and pop-up kitchen in our mini.  It seems that trailer travel is an equal – enthusiasm activity.

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We plan to leave for Fort Stevens State Park on the Oregon coast as soon as Bro gets back from work – he has promised to cut out early if he can on a Friday, so we can get a head start.  The forecast predicts a 99% chance of rain.

Will Bro get back on time?  Will the rain hold off?  Will the maiden voyage of the Titanic end in a crash?  Will we be able to park the teardrop any more easily the second time?  Tune in next week!

Travels with a Tiny Trailer – Day 2 ( Cont.)

20191017_105635webHow to manage a soaking wet tent and still wet chairs when the back of the Subaru is already full of the bicycles we were not able to load on the bike rack? We put the dry side of the rain fly over the bikes, pile the tent and chairs on top, close up the kitchen, and fire up the GPS.  Thank goodness, just up the highway in Grant’s Pass we find a friendly and well-equipped  Big 5  sporting goods store, where Sis buys new dry walking shoes, and I pick up a couple of igniters. Fortified against all ills we head on to Washington.

Lunchtime arrives, and Sis is eager to try the stove for the hot meal we did not have the night before.  I’m driving, and  I see a sign for “Douglas County Fairgrounds and Museum, Umpqua River Park.”  “Let’s try this,” I say, exiting with care.  “There are bound to be trees, picnic tables, and toilets at a county park with a fair attached, it’ll be nice by the river, and we can pick up some postcards at the museum maybe.”

So we follow the signs and find ourselves in a very large parking lot.  Behind a cyclone fence we see the fairgrounds, abandoned in October.  We climb the berm surrounding the parking lot and find the river, but no sign of a picnic table or a restroom. Our stomachs are rumbling, and at least the parking lot is level and the sun is shining.

douglas-county-museum-entranceThe Douglas County Museum is at the far end of the vast asphalt stretch.   I hike across the expanse, my need becoming more urgent at each step.  Oh happiness – the museum is open and it does have a very clean restroom as well as  indoor  and outdoor displays of mining and farming equipment,  a large collection of natural history items including a stuffed example of Oregon’s state animal (the beaver), and a charming gift shop.

Meanwhile, back at the trailer, Sis is putting together a delectable hot meal of vegetarian tacos.  We set up our chairs (now nearly dry) and our little table on top of the berm where we can see the river, and despite the asphalt we feel we are finally camping in style.

Travels with a Tiny Trailer – Day 2 (cont. again)

20191017_084028webWe get dressed in the confines of the tiny trailer. It’s not easy to pull on trousers without being able to stand up , but we manage it. Our water-resistant jackets are about dry after a night of hanging inside, and our moods improve as we plan on quickly making a hot breakfast on the two-burner stove in the pop-up kitchen in the back of the trailer. Sis fills the water carrier. All we need to do is boil water, and we’ll have coffee and instant oatmeal with fruit and brown sugar mixed in. So much easier than camping with a propane stove – nothing to set up, nothing to connect, just a quick flick of the lighter and….

Uh oh. The list of equipment provided with the trailer clearly lists a butane igniter, with back-up matches. The trailer is a honey-comb of clever contrived storage spaces, and it is quite likely that an igniter and/or matches is hiding in one of them. But we can’t find them. We take apart the under-sink storage, and the over-sink storage, and the behind-the-sink storage. Nope. No sign.

Here, for the first time, I’m really afraid Sis is going to lose it. No coffee? Her face twists in agony. Fortunately, I look beyond our campsite and spot a familiar item on the table in the neighboring camp – a Coleman stove. Where there is a Coleman stove, there will be a lighter or matches. Sure enough, the young man presiding over the stove has a Bic lighter in his pocket, and smilingly lights our burners for us. The day is saved! The coffee is hot and strong, and the oatmeal tastes wonderful!20191017_091418doc

We linger over our coffee, even though we are sitting on the edges of the still-wet camp chairs. We are not looking forward to dumping the water out of our leaky  tent, or loading the mass of wet canvas into the car. What will all that moisture do to the bikes? But we can’t put it into the trailer – the bedding would never dry out.

Somehow we make it happen. We put the dry side of the rainfly over the bikes, pile the tent and chairs on top, close up the kitchen, and break camp.

Will the chairs ever dry out?  Guess what will be our next stop? Stay tuned – And Happy New Year!

Travels in a Tiny Tear-drop Trailer – Day 2

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I have slept beautifully in the cozy confines of the teardrop, lulled by the sound of rain pattering on the roof. It is morning. I prop myself up on one elbow and open the privacy shade on my window. Outside I can see only as far as two campsites over. The fog is low, but fog is drier than rain. Things are looking up.

I sit up and begin to think about finding my clothes. Sis stretches and yawns next to me, so I wish her a good morning.

“I’m sorry if I disturbed you when I got up in the night,” she says.

“I didn’t hear a thing. You must have been real quiet.”

“No, actually, I was afraid you would have heard me swearing.” She props herself up, opens the door into our attached tent shelter, and gestures for me to look over her shoulder.

If we had practiced setting the tent shelter up in advance, or even if we had been able to set it up in daylight, we would surely have noticed that the shelter is not square, nor is the rainfly which is designed to cover it. Unfortunately, if a rectangular rainfly is set on a rectangular tent at a 90-degree angle from the way it is supposed to fit, the two ends of the tent will protrude from under the rainfly.

In the dark, in the rain, we had a 50-50 chance of doing it right. Unfortunately, we lost the toss.

20191017_084044webIn the morning, in daylight, we can see that the un-protected section of the tent roof is quite obviously not rain-proof. However, the bottom of the tent is water-proof, and Sis’s shoes are sitting soggily in a considerable puddle that has collected inside the tent.

“It was a pretty squishy walk to the bathroom,” Sis says.

“Oh, well, you have your hiking shoes to wear while those dry out, right?”

Sis suddenly looks stricken. “I meant to put them in the car. And then we had the fuss with the bikes. I’m not sure…. “

Will Sis find her hiking boots? Will we get the water out of the tent? Will we ever get a hot meal? Stay tuned.

And meanwhile –  MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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