Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Archive for the tag “transportation”

Hiking Boots to Buzzards’ Roost

Having nothing scheduled, we sleep until 6:30, when we both wake with the same need, scrambling for our camp shoes so we can hustle off to the nearby loo.  If we were at home, we would have stayed upright, made coffee, and begun the day.  But in camp, it seems still too dark to do anything serious, so M curls up for an additional doze, while I pull out my iPad to churn out another 1500 words of my latest imaginary adventure.

After a lovely camp breakfast of Raisin Bran, blueberries, raspberries and oranges, washed down with French pressed coffee, and milk, I do the washing up while M puts together a portable lunch in preparation for our hike to Buzzard’s Roost.  We intend to leave by 10, but what with one thing and another it’s 11:15 by the time we set our feet on the path toward the Buzzard’s Roost trailhead.

It’s a lovely walk under the Highway One overpass, up through stands of redwoods terribly scorched by the Basin Complex fire of 2008, but still bravely pushing out green shoots of new growth.  Then we’re in ceanothus and scrub oak country, then manzanita, and finally barren red rock with a vantage point that looks over to Mount Manuel landward and to the brilliant blue Pacific to seaward.  We spread our unneeded extra layers of shirts over the red dirt and set out a lavish lunch of hard-boiled eggs, carrots, hummus, crackers, string cheese, grapes, apples, and prunes – all finger food, no grease.  We stay looking out to sea until our spines begin to protest against sitting unsupported on the hard ground, then round up the eggshells and cheese wrappers with other leftovers and set off on the return loop.

One of my perennial games on a hike is to count how many different kinds of wildflowers Ican spot.  In Edgewood Park near where I live, I have counted as many as forty in the spring, due to the many different micro-biomes there.  On this day at Big Sur we tally twenty one, including columbine, native iris, wild strawberry, dandelion, buttercup, trillium, and others of which I do not know the names.  Counting varieties is a great way of forcing yourself to be on the lookout and to really notice what is around you.

Our plan after returning to our campsite had been to hop in the car, take care of a couple of small purchases at the general store down the road, and then to drive down to Pfeiffer Beach.  But after our purchases M turns to me and asks “Do you mind if we don’t go to the beach?  I just want to veg.”

Instead we drive to the end of the road on the side of the river opposite our campground, just to see what is there. We watch a family playing softball on the weedy field for a while, and I want to check out the “seasonal footbridge” that the map shows opposite our campground (See the dotted line crossing the river at the end of Day Use Lot 4 on the above map?) M drops me off at the end of Parking lot 4 and drives away, while I follow the trail from the sign that says “Footbridge.”

Guess what.  No footbridge. Must not be the season yet.  I debate wading across the shallowest portion of the Big Sur River as it ripples past where the bridge should have been. I’m wearing my water shoes, and my cargo pants with the roll up option, and the water looks shallow.  On the other hand, the bottom of the river is paved with rounded stones of varied sizes which could be very unstable and slippery, the water is so clear that it’s hard to gauge how deep it really is, and getting up the steep bank on the opposite side looks chancy. So I opt for the half-mile walk around to the far bridge at the end of the campground.  (It would have been shorter, but the most direct route was “authorized vehicles only,” and a ranger directed me in a friendly but definitive way to the trail around, not through.)

By the time I make it to our campsite, M has gotten worried and set out in search of me.  By the time we reunite the sun is definitely over the yardarm. She lights the portable campfire, I run cold water from the camp faucet over my tired feet, and we settle to reading, phoning, and munching the last of the crackers and hummus.

Dinner is experimental but turns out well. A vegetable medley cooked in Frying Pan #1, sliced parboiled potatoes with onions sautéed in frying pan #2, and lamb chops sauteed in Frying Pan #1 after the veggie medley had been evacuated, along with a nice Pinot Noir, dessert of shortbread and chocolate squares, and some sisterly discussion ranging from “Do you think Mom resented me?” to “Have you smoked marijuana?” to “I have this genetic deformity. Do you have it too?”

And by 9PM we are snuggled in our teardrop cocoon once more.

Coming next: The Beach! .

Freeway Free in CA: Travels with @rchy

My sister M has christened her teardrop trailer “@rchy” a triple pun referencing its curvilinear shape, the name of the manufacturer (t@g) and its resemblance to a classic VW bug, hence the association with Don Marquis’ classic literary cockroach.  The Subaru Forester which tows the trailer is, of course, “Mehitabel”.

For my Christmas present this year M promised me two expeditions with @rchy, one short, to a local state park, and one longer, to visit our brother in the Northwest. We set a tentative date in March, and then let it drift, until M went online in January and discovered that there were  NO open campsites anywhere within 100 miles of us in the month of March.  It seem that everyone in California at the same time got sick of staying indoors fearing Covid-19 and decided that outdoor camping is the logical healthy alternative – outdoors, campsites socially distanced – suddenly this is the hot thing to do.

Fortunately, M is tech savvy, and found an app which would alert her to any cancellations at her desired locations in the desired time frame.  So in the third week of March we found ourselves outward bound for Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground – not our first choice destination, but within easy striking distance of my house as a base.

Of course, my Personal Travel Agent was quite discomfited at being left out of this ladies’ outing (@rchy only sleeps two) but he made himself as useful as possible by suggesting menus, precooking our dinner for the first night, and providing maps, hiking suggestions, and special cooking utensils.

If Martha Stewart were camping…

We pulled into our camp site just after 2PM, the earliest we could check in. It took less than an hour to set up camp, complete with a carpeted “kitchen” with two work surfaces and a storage cupboard, a carpeted “living room” with mini-fireplace, chairs, and snack table,and a “dining room” with tablecloth, matching dinnerware, and a candle.  M does not believe in roughing it.

Besides the many advantages of having your tent, clothing storage, and kitchen all self-contained in one aluminum cocoon, @rchy offers the additional benefit of being a social magnet. There were at least three other t@g trailers within a few campsites of ours, and fellow t@ggers needed no encouragement to give a tour of the modifications and special storage features each had added to their tow-along pet.

We had been a bit wary of Pfeiffer Big Sur for camping as several years ago a major wildfire had burned through the park, closing many trails and destroying many vistas. But the latest news from the site had assured us that trails were open and recovery from the fires is well under way.

Coming next: Freeway Free in our Hiking Boots!

Goodbye Tahoe: Shuttling back to Real Life

If I can’t be Freeway Free, at least I prefer to let someone else drive. So taking the shuttle from South Lake Tahoe to the Reno Airport is a no-brainer. C is up and running by 9, and the nearest pickup point at 10AM is only 10 minutes away, at the Hard Rock Cafe/Casino/Hotel just this side of the California line.

The Hard Rock Cafe at 9:45 is a sleepy place, adorned with campy pix of Elvis, artifacts of Johnny Cash, BB King,Sly Stone, Elton John – lots of sequins and glitter, even for BB – jacquard jacket in purple and black shot with silver.  I guess that’s Vegas overflow.  Lots of donated guitars, maybe the second string?

Slowly other shuttle-goers arrive, some young folk going to whoop it up in Reno, some snow-bunnies returning from a girl’s outing, some young guys.  Bus (Amador Stage Lines) arrives only a few minutes late (10:10 vs 10:07) loads quickly, stops at Harrah’s, where we add an older crowd of evident retirees, mostly in couples, a few more of the same at Harvey’s and no one at Montaigne Bleu to the driver’s puzzlement.  And then off up the east side of the lake.

California definitely commands the most scenic lakefront.  Mountains on the CA side loom high and snow-covered, while the NV side is lower, more tree-covered and nearly glitz free.  When the bus turns away from the lake toward Reno towards Carson Valley, the landscape becomes all sandstone and sagebrush, and at the valley floor the view is still bleak, with winter-drab pine trees the only hint of color beyond dry grass, leafless deciduous trees, and building of stained wood blending neutrally into the surroundings.  A few immobile black Angus cattle add no sense of life.

Dropoff at the Reno Airport is at the furthest remove from my carrier, United, but I don’t mind a bit of leg-stretching. Checking in and checking bags are handled smoothly and smilingly, security is a breeze, and with almost two hours until my flight I wander off in search of a restroom and water station.  Oddly, all signs point toward A and B gates, none toward the newer C gates.  It’s quite a walk down to gate B3 to the restroom, and after emptying what was full and filling what was empty I find an almost-deserted room  with stools and tables for eating, big armchairs for massaging, and rows of seats where one can plug in a laptop, make a phone call on an actual public telephone, or request a page.  I decide to squat until time to leave for the gate at the other end of the terminal.

In the newer C gate wing, of course there are rest rooms right there! but I don’t regret my walk and my quiet refuge in the old wing. Flight is on time, weather fine for flying, and I am rested, refreshed, relaxed, and best of all, returning.

Thoughts about the travel:

If you are planning to go to South Shore (or, for that matter, any town which depends on tourism for its lifeblood) don’t trust the internet to tell you the status of a “recommended “restaurant – Call first!  Half a dozen times we arrived at a restaurant that said online that it was open, only to find it empty and dark.

Where casinos used to promote shows and poker tournaments and all-you-can-eat buffets on their neon/digital LED entrance signs, pride of place is being given to Help Wanted.  You should probably stay away from any restaurant advertising for a Lead Cook.

Freeway Free around Tahoe: Settling Into a New Nest

Reno Airport is a small and manageable transport hub full of flashing slot machines and empty kiosks for souvenirs and food.  I meet my travel-mate C at baggage claim, my suitcase arrives promptly, a big red Nissan SUV is waiting for us at Hertz, (to be christened “the Cherry-ot”) and off we go, south and west into the setting sun (glare almost blinding me at the wheel as the sun is directly ahead).

We stop at Safeway before stopping at the condo – C doesn’t drink coffee, but guzzles quarts of soda; doesn’t eat breakfast, but eats salami and bacon.  (Modified keto diet.) We run up a bill of around $120, of which about $25 is stuff I won’t touch, and $30 is stuff she won’t touch. But we won’t starve.

I’ve not stayed in a great many timeshares. Worldmark  by Wyndham is not as ritzy as some. The decor is standard house-staging tones of white, gray, and wood tones with granite counters and neutral upholstery and carpeting designed to hide stains.  The highlight is a big walk-in shower with a sit-down stool (I think I landed the handicapped room again). The view out the sliding door to the balcony is of other condos, with lots of icicles dripping down – the big snow was a week ago, and the ice has thawed and frozen more than once.

My magic suitcase and backpack are like Hermione Granger’s infinite evening bag – I just kept stuffing more in, everything from my mother’s handed-down snowsuit to my least thread-bare swimsuit for the spa. I had retrieved some Japanese slippers from a long-ago trip for getting to the spa, but counted on a bathrobe at the condo as a coverup. Nope. 

That’s $120 worth of groceries on the counter.

The kitchen is surprisingly well-appointed, even with small packets of useful spices next to the measuring spoons. I prepare my reliable camping casserole as a Welcome dinner, hoping that C will not pick out the corn and pasta. No problem, and enough left for another dinner for one after I’m gone.

After dinner we attempt to watch TV together, but los interest, and I take up my novel as C knits. I had only downloaded a couple of novels, and one I finished almost immediately. Now on my iPad I only have Washington Black to read for my book club and one copy of the Economist which I ‘d better save for the shuttle ride back to the airport on Sunday.  Oh wait. Worst case, there is a copy of The Brothers Karamazov on my iPad, one of those “always meant to read” downloads.

The next morning I realize the advantage of having a housemate on a completely different schedule. I slept beautifully, got up at 7, had a decadent shower, dressed, fixed breakfast for myself of fruit and coffee (neither of which is on C’s diet), ate leisurely, set up an expense spreadsheet for the trip, reviewed 20 pp of notes for the on-line class I’m taking, and when C finally appears after 9AM I already feel I’ve accomplished a day’s worth of productivity and I deserve to play.

Coming Next: Adventures on the Ice

Freeway Free: How NOT to get outta town

My friend C invited me out of the blue to spend a few days at her timeshare in Tahoe. A gal’s getaway – sounds great! Mindful of recent blizzards in the Sierras, my Personal Travel Agent suggested that I fly to meet C at the Reno airport rather than make a stressful drive by myself. Love to be coddled.

PTA gets me to the airport more than an hour before boarding.  I breeze through check in with the help of a brightly – masked gate agent who affixes my baggage tag for me.  I’m hung up for a few minutes in security as the X-ray objects to the steel shanks in my hiking boots.  Cleared, I stop at the rest room, fill my water bottle, buy an extra Chapstick against cold ($3.80!) and still arrive at the gate an hour before boarding at 12:30

I dig out my Science News, which I expect to be able to finish on the plane.  12:30 comes and goes.  Then the announcement – “The crew for your plane is stuck in Palm Springs. We are looking for a new crew.” New estimated departure: Maybe 2:30.” The announcer doesn’t sound very confident.

I go to the rest room again. I take out the snack I had packed for the plane – a mandarin orange and a granola bar. I find a quiet area and eat very slowly.  Back at the gate there is no change on the board.  I call C, already waiting at the Reno airport. I ask her to go to Hertz and let them know we’ve been delayed, so we won’t lose our car. I wander down to the bookstore.  Ooh, there’s a copy of the latest volume of the “Outlander” series! But maybe I’d better check back before I immerse myself in colonial America.  Oops!  The plane is boarding!  It’s 1:56.  Amazing.

I’m comfy in an exit row with a aisle seat.  Then my seat mate arrives, a very large United crew member dead-heading to Reno for a flight tomorrow.  There goes my elbow room.  He tells me a replacement crew agreed to fill in for the stranded group – above and beyond, out of the goodness of their hearts.  Thanks be to good-hearted crewmen.  I text C “I’m on the plane!” She responds “Hallelujah”

2:35: We are boarded, locked and loaded, but not pushed back from the gate yet. 

2:36: We are detached from the gate, but not actually moving as safety announcements are made.

2:40: We have moved 20 feet backwards.  It’s a 40 minute flight, if we ever get airborne!

I feel like I’ve been indoors in a mask with hot breath funneled up to my eyeballs forever.  It has been three hours. 

I only downloaded two books onto my iPad before leaving, and one of them I’ve nearly finished. Will one book and one copy of the Economist last me through four days and the flight back home?   I check – seems some time back I downloaded The Brothers Karamazov as something I’ve always meant to read. This may be the week.

2;46:  WE’RE MOVING DOWN THE RUNWAY!  No, we’re slowing down, moving to a different runaway.  Turning a second time.  A third time.  Are we there yet?  A fourth time.  The engines are making serious revving noises.  Here we go!

2:48: Lift off!   San Francisco looks like a city built of white sugar cubes in the bright winter light.  Lots of boats and barges lined up in the water – supply chain overflow?  Oakland looks just a bit grimier than its gleaming sister city across the Bay. The plane dips and turns right over Alameda; I can almost pick out our old house on Doris Court. Then we right ourselves and head east. 

Thoughts: Travel is chancy these days with airplane crews and bus drivers and other service personnel ravaged by viral variants and supply-chain glitches and labor shortages. My trip by plane and rental car to Stateline NV from the Bay Area took 6 hours; on a good day one could drive the route in 4.  My excuse for flying was “less stressful” but that’s not necessarily so when one’s flight is delayed, the airline rep says, “We’re trying our best but no update yet”, and one is supposed to be meeting someone at the other end.

So, if you are traveling, bring plenty to read, lots of patience, and bon voyage!

Thanks to The Atlantic for this graphic

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.

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 Trailer – Day 5: the Home Stretch

20191022_125051webBack to Bro’s house after our wet, windy, but wonderful weekend at Ft. Stevens State Park.  A night snuggled under C’s cozy quilts, and a day spent visiting nearby relatives.  Then it’s time to hit the road again.

About those bicycles that we never used.  I hate to ask Bro to get up on a ladder to hoist them to the top of the Tiny Trailer, since he has been allergic to ladders since his death-defying dive a few years ago.  But wrestling them into the back of Sis’s compact SUV was such a pain. Then I get a flash of brilliance – why not take the front wheels off the bikes?  Doh!  Suddenly stashing the unused wheels was so easy!  We are packed and ready to roll by the time Bro and his wife C have left for work.

20191022_131329webOur first stop – a quick visit to the local grocery to replenish our stocks of butter, cheese, and wine.  By the time we exit the grocery, the morning  drizzle has given way to sunshine.  We make excellent progress down I-5 through Portland and Salem, and stop for our mid-day refreshment at the Albany rest stop  about 15 miles south of Salem.  Okay, so a highway rest-stop is not exactly a camping haven, but the big rigs kept their distance, and this particular stop does boast the world’s quaintest rest stop visitors’ center.

We follow Bro’s sage advice for our evening stop, and mak our way to  Schroeder County Park tucked away behind suburban streets just outside Grant’s Pass.   This is a lovely park  right on the Rogue River, with lots of trailer sites, and EVERY ONE OF THEM A PULL-THROUGH SITE! No more spending a half hour backing and swerving into the site!  A chance to eat before 9PM!  Truly a Hidden Gem!

We actually got to set up in daylight.  Since it was NOT raining, we left the add-on tent in its wrapper in back  of the SUV, and used the convenient picnic table.  We cooked our chicken on our two burner range, and ate by head-lamp light.  And afterward we built a fire from a bit of shredded newspaper and five twigs.  Now THIS is what camping is about!

And so to bed. The most triumphant day of our trip – on our own, and everything worked!20191022_195634web

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!

 

Freeway Free in Oregon – the Columbia River Maritime Museum

[AKA: Travels in a Tiny Trailer – Day 4]

20191019_143112webIf you are going camping in a tiny trailer, and you left your bikes at home because the forecast call for a 99% chance of rain,  better hope you can find some indoor activity to pass the time!  If you are camping at Ft Stevens State Park you are in luck, because you are only a short drive from the quaint town of Astoria, [more on this later] and its Columbia River Maritime Museum. 

 

The CRMM is an amazing little museum with exhibits including early navigational charts, an IMAX theater showing films from Jacques Cousteau and others, a comprehensive map of shipwrecks at the mouth of the Columbia River, and a sea-sickness-inducing recreation of what it is like to be on a Coast Guard cutter going out to rescue mariners during a Pacific storm.

20191019_123504webIf you are going to spend some time in a small museum on a rainy weekend, it helps if  Executive Director happens to be an old friend from college.  Dr. Samuel E. Johnson and I had more than a few memories dating back to our freshman year Ballroom Dancing classes together. (I took the class to fill a Physical Education requirement; I suspect Sam took it because at that time the ratio of men to women at our college was officially 3.5 / 1, and it was chance to meet girls.)

In addition to being a very good dancer, Sam is an accomplished raconteur and a dedicated evangelist on behalf of his museum.  Sis, Bro, C and I spent a couple of hours being fascinated by a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum, coupled with stories of plans for the museum’s future expansion and enhancement.

If you go, plan to spend a couple of hours exploring, especially if you take in the IMAX film.  You might not get the hands-on tour, but you won’t be sorry for the visit.

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