Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Archive for the tag “vacation”

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 in a Tiny Teardrop Trailer – Day 2 (cont. again)

Map1Dry shoes for Sis, a couple of chocolate bars, working lighters for the stove, and a hot lunch in our stomachs – what could be finer than driving up I-5 as the sky clears and the sun shines on us.  Our operating rule is that the driver minds the road while the person riding shotgun manages the heater/AC and the sound track.   I’m driving so we are listening to Sis’s playlist of Scottish reels, blue grass,  and Nova Scotian folk music.  Not my favorite but she put up with my Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Joan Baez, and other 60’s relics for the previous day.  Won’t hurt me to listen to something different.

We sail past Eugene, nod to the State Capitol in Salem, and switch drivers. No sooner do Sis’s hands touch the steering wheel than it starts to rain again.  We hit Portland at the height of rush hour in heavy rain, and trudge our way along with what seems like half of Portland’s population across the bridge to Washington.  Only a hundred miles to go!

Just like the night before, it is dark and raining hard when we pull up in front of Bro’s house.  But this time, Bro comes out and takes over, parking our little teardrop with relative ease in his driveway next to his own trailer.  (Sis and I had a hazy memory of Bro talking about how his new house had ample room for trailer parking in the yard next to the workshop, but we dismiss this for now) .  And inside the house is a warm kitchen, with a pot roast bubbling in the crock pot,  a bottle of wine to be opened, and Bro’s wife C showing us to our room, with a big bed and hand-quilted comforter to look forward to.  Is this heaven, or what!

[Sorry, no pix – we didn’t stop for much between lunch and Bro’s place. But tune in next time to find out about that trailer that is parked in the driveway – more than meets the eye!]

 

 

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!

Travels in a Tiny Tear-drop Trailer – Day 1 (cont.)

 

(The picture on the left above shows what the inside of the trailer looks like in the website photo.  The one on the right shows the inside of the trailer in actual use.)

An hour after arrival at Valley of the Rogue State Park, we finally have the trailer reasonably stationed in its space, with the electricity hooked up. My water-repellent wind-breaker is soaked through, and as it is after 9PM, we decide to forego cooking a hot meal and simply make a meal of cheese, fruit, and crackers, with some good red wine, and chocolate for dessert. No worries about the rain, Sis declares, as she has also rented a little tent which can be attached to the trailer door, giving us a dry place to sit while we eat.

The comprehensive directions that come with the trailer  suggest that one should practice setting up the tent attachment in advance so you know how it all fits together. We have not done that. Fortunately we both have head lamps, so we take the chairs out of the trailer and set them aside, take the tent out, and begin to assemble it in the dark and rain, with me reading the directions , and the two of us fitting poles into holes as seems most reasonable. A half-hour or so later, the tent is up, attached to the trailer, and we have secured the rain fly. It’s then  we discover that the chair bags are not water-proof, and after a half-hour of sitting out in driving rain, the chairs inside their bags are sopping wet.

Well, so are we by that time, so we set our chairs and little table up inside the tent, arrange some plastic trash bags on the sodden chairs, and drown our soggy sorrows in wine. I even manage to forgive Sis for having forgotten to bring the chocolate. We hang our wet clothes on every possible protuberance inside the trailer, and prepare for bed.  We find the mis-placed purse! Sis worries about having to get up in the night to get to the rest room, so she carefully sets her shoes just outside the trailer door inside the tent so that she can slip them on if needed.

And so to bed.

Will the rain ever stop?  Will Sis be able to find her shoes in the dark? Will we get a hot breakfast?  Stay tuned!

 

Travels in a Tiny Teardrop Trailer – Day 1

 

My sister fell in love at first sight when she saw a tiny teardrop trailer on the cover of Sunset magazine. Was this the solution to all the packing and preparation needed for a simple weekend camping trip? Could a trailer provide grab-and-go adventure?

She had done a trial weekend, renting a teardrop with a close friend, whose full-size SUV had no trouble pulling a tiny trailer while carrying a couple of bicycles and duffels in its rear. But would Sis’s little Subaru hatchback be able to tow and stow? She decided to try it out on a trip to the Pacific Northwest, to visit our brother and his wife in their new house. Bro had a trailer already, so we could trailer camp together over the weekend. And so she invited me on a road trip with the object of her passion.

Camping without bicycles, to Sis and her husband, would be like going to Hawaii without swimsuits. They routinely bike 30 miles on Sunday morning for a cup of coffee. Bro assured us that the campsite he had in mind had miles of beautiful bike trails, so Sis rented a trailer equipped with a bike rack on top, and I brought my bike to keep her company.

The trailer rental guy at Sierra Teardrops had shown Sis how to set up the bikes on top of the trailer, but she had not actually tried to do it. It was apparent almost immediately that there was no way she, at barely 5 feet tall, and I, at 5’3”, were going to be able to hoist even her lightweight bike to the top of the trailer, much less get it properly affixed in the rack. But abandoning the bikes was not an option. We pulled all our gear that had been stowed in the Subaru and piled it into the trailer, and then wrestled the two bikes into the back of the Subaru. Not easy. We were both sweating by the time we had managed to make them fit, and we were now an hour past our hoped-for departure time.

Off we go. Just short of Mt. Shasta we stop for gas. Sis can’t find her purse. Is it buried under the hastily stowed stuff in the trailer, or did she set it down in the house while picking up some last-minute items from the fridge? She phones home. Husband is home from work, looks all over, can’t find the purse in any of the places she usually sets it down. We cross fingers that the purse, with Sis’s driver’s license, is in the trailer somewhere. Meanwhile, my credit cards work, and Sis drives carefully.

We had planned to camp at Castle Crags state park north of Mt. Shasta, but even on a Wednesday in October, they were full! So on we go, aiming for Valley of the Rogue State Park just north of Ashland. By the time we arrived and found a  vacant space, near 8PM, it is dark. And it is raining. Hard.

I had been assiduously reading the extensive directions which come with the trailer all the way up Interstate 5. They recommend that you practice backing the trailer up before you actually take it places, as “backing a small trailer is more difficult than backing a large one.” We had not done that. Oh well, we think, we will just pull into the space forward, and deal with backing up tomorrow morning when we can see, and maybe it won’t be raining. Bad idea. We discover as soon as we were headed into the space that all the trailer hookup attachments are conveniently located on the side which would be close if the trailer is backed into the space, but are just too far for the cables to reach if you head in. So Sis has to back out of the space, circle the campground, and then try to back into the space. In the dark. In the rain. I stand outside to give directions, and Sis tries her best, again and again.

Will Sis succeed in positioning the trailer in its slot?  Will we ever get to eat? Will the purse show up? Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Freeway Free in California – Adventures up the Empty Coast – Day 2 (continued)

IMG_0251docThe weather was perfect: warm, no fog or wind, as we left Hearst Castle.

We meandered up Hwy. 1, ooh-ing and aah-ing alternately at the gorgeous scenery and at the huge scars on the hillsides marking the winter landslides of several seasons. South of tiny Gordo men were still working to clear a large slide – the influx of workers must have been a boon to the intesnsely cute Whale Watcher’s Café which dominates the one-block town.

Fountains of invasive pampas grass flaunt their rusty pink plumes all over the scarred hillsides. It’s clear that they have gotten the jump on native vegetation, but one must be thankful for any roots that will hold back more landfalls. Not encouraging to start the trips with a sign saying “Rock Slide area – next 60 miles.

We snuck into the Los Padres National Forest’s Plaskett Creek Campground despite the signs saying “Campground Full,” and ate sandwiches and chips we had bought at the Hearst cafeteria/deli. The group camp, with a beautiful ocean view, was deserted at midday, except for a group of grackles generaled by jays which hovered ever closer to our crumbs. Then after our lunch, only about 500 yards further down the road we saw a sign for “Beach and Picnic Area”. Our lunch tasted better for being illicit, though.


20191002_125717docFurther up the road there was an even bigger slide, with an obviously temporary one-lane road perched nervously across the new ground. But it was fascinating to watch the big diggers roaming and scooping  atop huge mounds of dirt and stone. And that road remains a marvel of impossible engineering, spectacular vistas, and a maddening plodding pace behind the inevitable road boulder, often a “Rent-Me-RV” whose first-time RV driver is scared to death of his rig and the road.  And they won’t pull out to let the long line of vehicles behind them to pass, which is the law, or, if it isn’t, there oughta be.20191002_132921doc

And finally we made it to Big Sur, with its redwoods, its fire-scars, its resorts both humble and ostentatious nestled in the piney woods.  Only another hour of gorgeous scenery to go before we hit the traffic and tourists of the Monterey Peninsula.  It’s been a great ride.

Freeway Free in CAlifornia – Adventures on the Empty Coast (Day 1)

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What’s the empty coast? Where Highway 1 clings to the cliff faces south of Carmel, with basically no left turns and few habitations until it regains civilization and a few crossroads south of San Simeon.

We needed a fall getaway, so D and I headed lickety-split down US-101, aiming for a calm coastal stay in Cambria, followed by a visit to Hearst San Simeon National Monument, and a scenic trip back up through Big Sur and the stretch of California Highway 1 that had been cut off by landslides and fires for several of the past years.

We stopped for lunch in Paso Robles, one of my favorite pauses for trips south and north on Historic El Camino Real. There are several good restaurants in Paso. This time we stopped at the Berry Hill Bistro, where the paninis are huge, the salads ample, and the servers slim and smiling. (I always think it’s a good sign if a restaurant’s waitresses are thin. It means they are running off the calories serving customers as fast as they can, rather than sitting around eating the leftovers.)

Just past Paso we found our exit on CA Highway 46, and sailed along a well maintained road through San Luis Obispo wine country. Acres of grapevines in fall colors cloaked the dry hills, and each winery seemed to be vying with the next to have the most oddly memorable name (my favorite: Tooth and Nail Winery.)

Only a half hour later we were cruising along Cambria’s Main Street. To our delight, we discovered that the entire month of October in Cambria is devoted to a Scarecrow Festival, and each retail, educational, and many private establishments compete for the notice of passers-by. There were Mexican-themed flamenco scarecrows for the Mexican restaurants, a Victorian lady in blue and white next to the blue and white Chase bank logo, and my favorite Raggedy Ann and Andy from my childhood next to a toy and gift store.

After checking into our beachfront motel, the Little Sur Inn,  we walked along the boardwalk bordering Moonstone Beach to check out the Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill as a dinner prospect, but although it has a lovely front veranda with a stunning sunset view,  and seemed to have a lively patronage, we would have been walking back in the dark, and it seemed a bit far.

We has our traditional champagne on the balcony of our room, looking out over Moonstone Beach. The sunset looked like a banana skin shading around the curve from pale yellow to golden brown.   We lingered until we both thought we saw the green flash accompanying the last rays of the sun. Lovely.20191001_190339web

As long as we would be getting in the car anyway, we decided to try Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria’s east village, a recommendation from a friend. It is a beautiful adapted home just a block from the Main Street, with a quiet ambiance, excellent service and good food (roasted Brussels sprouts with pine nuts and blue cheese, miso sea bass, firecracker shrimp).

One caveat: As we watched, there were maybe three younger couples coming in or leaving during the evening, but this is definitely a quiet restaurant for an older crowd.  D and I are used to upping the average age of the customer base by 10 years when we enter a restaurant. In this case we were right on average. D observed thatRobin’s does not have high chairs or booster seats, but they do seem to have an ample supply of walkers and supplemental oxygen bottles.  I guess the younger crowd was still quaffing brewskis on the Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill veranda.

IMG_0247webWe took the remains of a bottle of local Pinot Noir back to our balcony to finish off the evening with the complimentary chocolate chip cookies from our check- in desk. We sat on our balcony again to watch the crescent moon setting near where the sun had set before our dinner. Suddenly stars! The Milky Way! D even saw a shooting star. Only one spotlight shining on the entry sign for our hotel spoiled the dark sky.

 

Freeway-Free in Spain: Old Bilbao Explored

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When you are tired of looking at indoor and outdoor art along the Abandoibarra between Bilbao’s two world-class museums, go for a different vibe in Bilbao’s Old Town and Warehouse District.

On a weekday, you can browse the Mercado de la Ribera, one of the largest and oldest indoor markets in Spain. (I was there on a Sunday, but I did get to see some of the lovely stained glass windows in the guild hall.)

In the Warehouse District you will find the Alhondiga a multi-story public library  built on pillars within an old warehouse, with a glass-bottomed swimming pool on the roof.  It’s a wonderful re-imagining of how to use space. (Notice that no two of the supporting pillars are alike.)

In the Old Town are the usual medieval cathedral, narrow cobbled streets, and slightly skewed medieval buildings.

And if you explore the side streets, you will find some amazing, funky shops offering  exotic (and painful-looking) piercings, gothic wear, and many other oddities.

If you want an overview, don’t omit visiting the park atop Mount Artxanda, the hilltop overlooking Bilbao, for a panorama which takes in both old and new Bilbao. 20190528_124541doc

And then maybe you’ll want to take in the art scene just one more time before you leave.

 

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