Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Camping With Ollie and the Beach Poodles: Part 2


If there was a best part of the camping trip, it was finding this almost deserted beach and enormous dog park. We had a giant fenced in place for Ollie to run until he dropped, and occasionally, he met some new friends.

It was a short walk from the fenced in area to a section of beach where folks were letting their dogs have a free run. I wasn't quite ready for Ollie to go running free...since I was pretty sure I would never catch him, and I wasn't at all positive he would come back to a couple of old folks that were hardly worth chewing on.

We had the two of us, trying to control one little rowdy puppy, and then this old lady strolls up on the beach with 3 different size poodles and just let them go. The big black one had to be the single most frou-frou dog I have ever seen in person. The dogs were nice and loved Ollie. He got all of the dog attention he could want that day. The lady turned out to be a groomer (shocker!), and she gave us advice about what Ollie was going to need. Turns out that our puppy's coat takes extra work...and perhaps body armor for the groomer.

The big surprise for me was that Dharma, the black standard poodle that did not seem to belong on some dirty little beach, was the nicest dog I've ever met. She was quickly my best buddy, once I got over the hair-do. Ollie didn't mind the attention I got from Dharma, he was too busy working over 'Stretch', the toy poodle, who was a big ball of fur. Every once in a while Dharma would come over and nose Ollie upside down to show him that size matters in the dog world.

 Ollie found that the beach was the best place in the whole world...and he still doesn't know about getting wet. You can dig anywhere! And there is so much cool stuff to bite and smell! He sat quietly at attention while he watched a young woman with a Brittany Spaniel throwing a ball into the ocean and the dog swimming out to get it. He's not ready yet, but soon Ollie will be a wet, muddy mess anytime we get near water....just not too soon, please?


Thursday, December 10, 2020

Camping With Ollie and the Beach Poodles: Part 1

I don't know if we just get lucky or I really know how to predict extreme weather. Almost every time I plan a camping trip, we get a hurricane. I cancelled the last one after it appeared that the hurricane was going to land right where we were to pitch our trailer. The time before, we bee-lined home right before the storm hit up in Atlanta. Right now, it seems like Orlando is the only place that was safe from hurricanes in 2020. 

Slightly shy of a hurricane was the cold front that came through while we were camping this week. We pulled into Fort DeSoto Park in Saint Petersburg, Florida, on a nice winter day, just cool enough to let Pam wear a jacket and crocs. Ollie, the pup liked this place that had a million things to taste and smell. The photo above was taken on the first day, of what I expected to be a few days of biking, paddleboarding, and dog walks on the beach. There was charcoal, firewood, and the fantasy of romantic evenings, watching the calm waters of the Gulf lapping up on our own private beach. We had good food in store, plenty of ice, and I was getting pretty good at dealing with the whole camper thing without looking like a newbie while setting up. I'm still considering what I've seen some other older couples do: buy little two way radios, so Pam can whisper "NO! Your OTHER left!" while I'm backing the trailer into to a patch of low hanging tree limbs. This would be preferable to the current method of Pam yelling out her instructions while the neighboring campers pull up chairs to watch the best entertainment available..

The afternoon sun didn't last long, and the breeze was picking up to the point that I was thinking I might not get a chance to put Ollie on the paddleboard and show him that he was definitely a waterdog. It was about then that I met our next door campground neighbors. It was a couple of women, either of which looked like they could handle this outdoor stuff much better than I could. They had a trailer that was called "Vintage" and looked much like a very cool new version of something old. As they introduced themselves, they mentioned the coming rain and wind. At the time I was thinking of a light breeze and some sprinkles. I was pretty wrong about that. Most of the night we spent cuddled on the small bed watching our latest binge-show, while the wind screamed and the rain pounded the metal roof and sides of Bambi.

Ollie was great and when I got up early to walk him, I found out what we had in store...30 mph winds and temperature so cold that the jacket I almost left home wasn't enough. Pam murmured that I had promised her beautiful weather with no rain and she wasn't getting up until I could produce it. I was already looking at a long crooked tree branch that was hanging over the camper and creaking like it wasn't going to last the day. I really needed a shower and a shave, but it was looking like it was going to be a long day in small quarters with a puppy that had a blood thirst...




Monday, November 23, 2020

The Electric Mud And The Stinkeye Pinto

It's the first Perkins brothers camping trip of 2020, and someday somebody will ask how we let that happen? They will have forgotten all about the virus, and wiping down our groceries and figuring out what to use instead of toilet paper. Yeah, it's pretty easy right now to believe that we will never forget this, but history tells a different story. The stage must be set with 3 brothers of differing political beliefs, the most contentious election in our lifetime...see? we already forgot all about Nixon...nobody remembers that one.

The virus is raging through the world, and someday a vaccine is coming to save us..or will it be like the lifeboats on the Titanic? You can imagine that we had some lively conversations around the campfire, but that is part of the story. Right off, I declared 'no politics' to which Paul replied, 'I agree to disagree'....not sure what that meant, but we did switch to wondering about if we had enough supplies when civilization came crumbling down. Steve was wondering what route to take if he had to shoot his way out of Orlando, while Paul pondered if his business could pivot somehow in a positive manner while zombies were shuffling down the street. Me, I was fantasizing about band gigs in a Thunderdome-like setting. I did always like Steampunk stuff. And pretty much everybody looked old in those Mad Max movies...I'd fit right in.

We camped in the most beautiful, primitive place in Florida, Princess Place Preserve and as long as you don't need fresh water or electricity, you'd be fine. The weather was something special. I've seen a lot of wind coming off that salt marsh in the past but this trip was a true test for my tent. Nothing would stay on the picnic table without something heavy anchoring it down. And rain...did I mention the rain? Well, it didn't rain all the time, it just came and went without warning, just like hurricane times.

What turned out to be the best fun of the weekend, was a daylong trip on mountain bikes through the miles and miles of horse trails throughout the park. I am absolutely certain that you could be lost out there for days WITH a GPS. This time Steve brought his two electric bikes, one of which I rode, while Paul went old-school on his expensive pro bike. Steve and I had a blast, while Paul got the real workout. I know, you're thinking, why would we want electric bikes for riding along a horse trail. This is because you are not familiar with the term 'sugar sand'. Let's just say a long time ago, I rode with a serious group of mountain bikers that got stuck in a large patch of it, and we did the walk of shame...and it's not much of a problem on an E-bike...

Hardly anybody was in the park besides us, and we had this long spooky walk to the only functioning bathroom in the park. It turned out that there were a couple of neighbors right next to the bathroom and they were camping in horse trailers while the horses hung around in small portable fences. There was one old grey-white horse that looked like nobody had asked him if he wanted to go camping in this weather. There was another brown and white horse that was quite different. I'm not much into that 'how smart are horses' stuff. I'm still trying to figure out how smart are people..but that horse. Every time we would walk by, that horse would stick his head around the back of the trailer, like he was sneaky or something. He'd then turn away, and suddenly look back to see if we were still there...then he'd come around the other side of the trailer, with this look, staring straight at me. I wasn't sure if he was saying, 'This guy looks like somebody I want to hang out with' or 'I'm gonna stomp that guy until he stops moving!'

Eventually, Paul got the owner into a conversation where she told us this beautiful animal was a Pinto with some Arabian in him. I'm not sure if that explained anything, but I did ask her why he was staring at me. She said 'Oh no! He's very friendly, he's just wary about bears.....'.....yeah, right....I know better, that horse was making plans..




Monday, November 2, 2020

The Quest For The Wire Fox: Part 6


Life was suddenly very different. We were driving up the road to Ft. Mountain State Park in northern Georgia and there was a new dimension to everything we did. Pam's planning about training the dog to ride in a crate and respond to clicker commands flew right out the window in the first 15 minutes of the drive and the only worry on my mind was, would Ollie get carsick?

Either those young folks that raised this litter of puppies did a great job, or we got another really smart dog. He did everything you could want from a new member of the family, even treating Pam and I equally...well, almost equally. We pulled into the campground on a nice cool afternoon, and right away I saw that we were never going to use those coats we brought along. 55 degrees, is just nice for shorts and t-shirts. You can walk for 10 minutes without sweating. In Florida, it sounds cold, because we are lucky when we get that kind of weather. Unfortunately, Ollie still needed another round of shots before he could walk on the ground anywhere..something I didn't know about getting disease from where other animals have walked. We put up a playpen with a tarp and blanket on the ground and he was excited. He loved his crate filled with a blanket and toys. He made a regular habit of sleeping in it with just his head hanging out.

In just two days, we had a routine. I'd wake up around 5:30am and sit on the floor of the camper and hang out with Ollie until 7 and then toss him in bed with Pam and wait for the scream. He was like a little barracuda in that confined searching for the first aid kit more than once after I unsuccessfully fended off attacks of the puppy razor teeth.

It was like heaven for us, and we hadn't even gone to look at the pre-historic wall that is the main attraction, plus I had my mountain bike to explore while Pam would teach Ollie to chew on toys rather than people.

The second morning was when Pam turned on the news and saw, guess what...Hurricane headed our way. There is something about us and hurricanes and Pam wondered aloud about our relative safety. This was while I pondered driving down I-75 to Florida in pouring rain, following a mass exodus from Georgia to the Sunshine State. In the end, we left before the storm and made it home just in time for Mandy, who had been calling us every few hours, asking when she could meet the puppy.

He is now spoiled rotten, and the only grumpy person in the house is the cat, who seems to be saying "Nobody asked me if I wanted a puppy!" Ollie is trying hard to make friends and the cat is becoming a little bit more tolerant as the days roll on. The cat has this look, "Hey, just because I'm not hissing and I let that little furball be in the same room, doesn't mean I'm happy about all this!"

Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Quest For the Wire Fox – Part 4

 I won’t lie to you, the drive through Atlanta, even on a Sunday morning, was something of a test for me. I’ve been trying to live a life where I can handle whatever comes my way with aplomb. My mantra is that I have had worse to deal with, lost while backpacking in Maine, shark encounters while while surfing, and driving a motorhome in Scotland. We managed to get to Powder Springs, Georgia, with only a couple of wrong turns, no cursing and no freaking out. The level of difficulty was pulling a camper trailer behind the huge van and the endless flow of traffic before a big football game in the city.

This wasn’t a case of me worrying about something that would never happen. There were plenty of reminders on the sides of the road, smashed up cars, police vehicles with lights flashing and  small crowds of people wearing masks. I was driving 5 miles and hour UNDER the speed limit, but like Pam said, other drivers looked at the van and the dents on the trailer and gave us wide berth.

Ollie’s house was an interesting stop. Only an hour away from the crazy traffic of Atlanta, I pulled into this suburb that seemed created for hipsters. I could not tell if it was old and fixed up, or if they just recently built it to look old. Lots of bike paths, a long street of buildings that invited walking shoppers, and then what seemed like miles of fancy multi-story apartment buildings. We drove past all of this and then suddenly we were in the old country, with older homes with large properties, and huge shade trees. Pam was admiring all of this, saying ‘if I had to move, I could handle this!’. It didn’t hurt that the temperature had dropped to the point where you could walk outside for a few minutes in shorts and flipflops without sweating.

I was still ready for anything, leaving the gun in the car, tightly gripping the large sum of cash I had to bring for this special dog Pam had to have, and in the other hand, I had the keys spread out between my knuckles. I was telling myself to assess the situation and make sure that I took out the most dangerous person first if it came to that. The house was in front of me now, at the top of a small rise. A yellow and white home with a railed porch out front. I could see a large man sitting in a rocking chair, cradling something in his lap. If it was a gun, I couldn’t make out the model from the distance. I needed to know if it was a revolver. If that was the case, I might be able to count how many shots he could take. There was a little bit of a chance for us if the deal went south. There was a large well-used pleasure boat on a trailer on the street in front of the house, probably purchased with the money from other foolish people that had walked up here with lots of cash and no idea of how far they were from the law.

As we rounded the boat, he stood up and walked towards us and I tightened my grip on the keys and moved in front of Pam to make sure I closed as much distance between as I could before he raised his weapon. It turned out, that I had paid too much attention to the man, because I was caught unawares when a huge dog leaped in the air right in front of me. I dropped my keys and stood in amazement as the dog jumped about 4 feet straight up in the air 3 times.  The man yelled at the dog, ‘Bella, settle down!’ .  I stood there helplessly as he raised he hands and pointed a puppy at my head….



Friday, October 30, 2020

The Quest For the Wire Fox: part 3


The first day of the excursion was a leisurely drive up the interstate to a small town in Georgia called Forsyth. Our stop for the night turned out to be a really nice campground in a deeply wooded area with a fantastic view of the interstate highway flowing by. I drove a short distance from the main road into the park and found out right away that this was going to be a pleasant short stay. Rain had been in the forecast and we managed to get camp set up before the steady drizzle got going. I was feeling that this kind of camping wasn’t all that bad, until right before dark, another camper pulled in about six feet from our front door. This was apartment living, RV style.

We managed to get a little bit of exercise before the rain arrived, eyeing the fellow campers and their rigs. I was having flashbacks of me as a teenager, my mom and dad with their 31 foot Airstream trailer and International Travel All truck. It was one of those things that did go right for my dad after he got home from Vietnam. The government gave him something like a dollar for every day he spent in prisoner of war camp. He took that money and bought the RV rig of his dreams. They took us on a long trip with them, and every night they would string up the owl lanterns around their trailer awning, while us kids groaned and tried to look like we did not belong to the Airstream crowd. They would always walk the park, and make friends with the fellow campers, while I was trying to pretend that I was not really an 18 year-old  that was camping with his folks. Now, Pam and I were older than they were back then, walking the park, but somehow, I didn’t have the personality to go up to strange people and say ‘Great weather we’re having…if you’re a duck!’. Nope, that wasn’t me, but I did have a plan for the lanterns….


We are using a ‘rig’ that must strike people as quite odd, and I do see many confused looks from fellow campers. Most people either go the route of getting something as big as they can possibly handle or totally minimalist. Usually, people that are pulling an Airstream Bambi are unusual folk. Here we have something quite small and light, yet expensive. One might imagine that it would be pulled by a tricked out Jeep Wrangler or a family SUV. Instead, we are pulling it with Megavan, the Nissan van we bought for doing farmer’s markets, and the van is actually larger than the trailer. It is also possible that the strange looks are because the van is nice and shiny and the trailer has way too many dents in it for something that cost so much.

We are excited and sleep will be hard to come by. The next day we will meet the Ollie, the pandemic puppy, and his family in Powder Springs, Georgia. Or we will get conked on the head by robbers, if you can believe my brothers. I am in that in between place, where I am hopeful that there really is a dog, and maybe it likes me or if it looks like a robbery, I can get out of there fast. Yes, sleep was looking like an elusive creature this time. Tomorrow will be driving through Atlanta pulling a trailer, and then going out into a country suburb and meeting whatever awaited us there. The plan was to drive from there to the mountains and camp a few more days…with an 8 week old puppy…what were we thinking?