Thursday, November 11, 2021

Ollie And The Tribute To The Worst Campsite In The World


 As is usual, I was griping about how we haven't been camping for a real long time, and Pam declared once the state cools down enough to sleep without sweating, she's ready to consider some time in the woods. Unfortunately, everybody in Florida, in addition to everybody that owns a camper up north agreed with her assessment. 

I opened up my browser and started searching for open campsites at all of my favorite campgrounds. Yep, everything is booked up everywhere. I always hoped for the day I would retire and be able to do stuff on weekdays when everything wasn't so crowded...little did I know that millions of people were retiring when I did and had similar plans. I did find some spots, maybe not the best campsites, but at least we were out in the wild. At this point in time, I did not truly comprehend that I was perhaps, one of the less informed camping enthusiasts in the area. We arrived at Fort De Soto County Park merely moments after the allotted time, to find a long line of RV's waiting to check in...on a Monday!!! I finally get our ticket and head to our designated spot...or 'pitch' as the Brits have it. Although Pineallas County calls it a camping space, site 119 is more like the parking space for the bathrooms. And we spent our downtime in folding camp chairs, watching the coming and going of folks as they came to do their business. There was nothing like cooking supper at the picnic table while I listened to the gentle sounds of toilets flushing nearby. Ollie, however, didn't mind this at all. He gave a rousing bark to every person that walked by, and a couple of extra barks for any kid that decided to ride a bicycle past our camp.

I will write this site number down so I don't forget this special trip. I can't say that this was the worst campsite in the world...but it was a Tribute.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Camping With Pam & Ollie -The Next Thing I Need To Buy

 It is possible that I was wrong. There I've said it, and we can now all move on. Pam has, for over forty years now, insisted that I care too much what other people think. Actually, I just would prefer to come off as 'someone that knows what he is doing'. I can't speak for the women of this world, but probably a whole lot of men consider when bringing their wife camping or fishing means to them....that time when you have to back a trailer up..and your wife is helping. 

We have done this a few times before, and we owned a boat for years, so it isn't like  we don't know anything about trailering. And, Pam is great at driving the van, she can weave into little spaces at the Farmer's Market like it's nothing....but a pressure situation at a boat ramp or campsite? 

Phrases like "No! Your Other Left!" just roll out like nobody is listening, and we aren't drawing a crowd already. I know durn well that there are 90 year old men and women around us that could back in a 40 foot motorhome like it's nothing, and here we are looking like greenhorns.

My very next purchase is going to be a set of walkie talkie radios so Pam can whisper her words of endearment concerning my lack of ability to translate what she says into the correct actions. She says this won't help much because she will shout into the radio anyway. We finally got into the spot once I remembered that I had a backup camera...but I'm still getting those radios!

Food for thought...what if people are not gathering to laugh, although I have witnessed that, but to feel sympathy? Later that same day, while out walking Ollie, we had to stop because a large motorhome came to a halt and put its backup lights on. An older woman jumped out of the passenger side jumped out and the yelling began. The driver put it in park, turned off the motor, got out and invited the woman to get in the driver's why didn't I think of that?

Monday, September 27, 2021

The Boys, the Bikes and the Broken Part 4

 There is something that us Florida people don't think about much. I should have remembered it from my backpacking experience in the mountains of the Appalachian Trail: If you have a nice long downhill, pretty soon you will have an extreme ascent to follow. 

In this instance, we had spent hours climbing down this steep face of clay, rocks and weeds, hoping that somewhere ahead there would be a gentle path of overhanging trees and a nice wide trail of pine needles. We finally did come to something like that. It was a T in the trail. To the right, it appeared that the trail was going to go straight back up that mountain, and to the left there was a sign that said "Horse Stables".....Steve ventured the idea that we could ride to the horse stables, find a way to town, get lunch and then think about how we could ever get back to camp....I was all in for the lunch part, and wasn't looking too far into the future. Meanwhile, Paul was eyeing the straight up trail, wondering if he could make it and get GoPro footage to prove to his biking friends that just because you are riding an E-bike, doesn't mean you're a wuss.

The majority ruled, and soon we were on gravel, passing a barn, and a house, horses, and a lady that ran out yelling "don't y'all know you're on private proverty!?" Paul explained that we were some elderly brothers that got lost on the trail and were trying to find our way home....somehow I felt like he had a lot of experience of explaining his way out of jams...

She yelled out some directions on how to get back to the campground...while I was still wondering of the town of Chatsworth had a decent BBQ place with picnic tables outside.

The lady chased us down in her truck, but Paul really won her over and she made sure we found the right way back to the campground (or made sure we got off her property).

You ever been on an old country road that corkscrews for miles up to the top, and find some crazy bicyclist trying to pedal up that road? Yep....that was us.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Boys, The Bikes And The Broken Part 3


We were really excited about doing some real mountain biking, and there actually was a trail that started right near us in the campground. Unfortunately, the trail looked more like the place water runs downhill after a good rain...steep and full of clay and rocks. Nobody got hurt, but Steve was thinking it was a good possibility, while Paul's eyes were glowing with the prospect of real danger ahead of us.

Once we got past the first 15 minutes of tough stuff, it turned into something more like a path a person would hike for fun and we all were enjoying it. There were pull-offs where you could view spectacular landscapes that you usually only see while backpacking. It seemed like the ride was over too quickly and we headed back to camp to plan a REAL ride for the next day.

We ended up finding a 17 mile trail that went way off into the wilds, and I started getting a little concerned that the farther we rode in, the more difficult it would be to get out if something went wrong. There were even notifications about specific places on the trail where you could get airlifted out if something went wrong...that should have been warning enough....but Paul's eyes were really glowing at that point.

We started early the next morning, and it took a bit of trouble to find the trailhead. We had to go several miles down a dead-end road and the go past a sign that said "No Admittance".  We knew we were at the right place because there was a large sign on a tree that said "Warning: Advanced Riders Only Beyond This Point".

3 hours later, I was pretty sure we were going to need that airlifting spot...It was straight downhill rocks, us walking our bikes with the brakes on full, while the bikes were trying to go on without us. Paul was certain that something was wrong and the motor was tugging his bike...but even with the battery off, he could barely hold it back. I kept thinking "Man, the only way out of this place is climbing right back up that mountain that we could barely walk are we going to do that?"

We argued and looked at how much food and water we had, not even counting all of the black bear warning signs we saw....then Steve had an was a great idea...doesn't mean it wasn't painful though...


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The Boys, The Bikes, and the Broken Part 2


I learned many things on this trip. Number one would be: don't bring too much stuff. We were packed into one camper and we had gear coming out of our ears. The first morning we spent at Fort Mountain, Paul and Steve went into town to get a propane tank so we would not have to eat peanut butter sandwiches the rest of the trip. That trip to town required both of them because Paul, in spite of his healthy food obsession, had a jones for a fountain coke like nobody else...a bottle of coke would never do, and he really hoped for crunchy ice.

I had a few hours alone to reflect on how quickly my body decided that 70 degree temperature was just about right for t-shirt, shorts and flipflops. It still seems strange that I got used to the lower temp so fast, while I'm still struggling with re-acclimating to the Florida swamp days after I got back home.

Food-wise, it was a constant struggle for me. Steve, the grillmaster always had more meat going on the grill than my family would eat in a week. There is some part of me that must have once been a starving beggar in Medieval times, because when Steve would say "Do you want two 1/2 pound hamburgers or only one?" Why in the world would I turn down an extra hamburger in the woods where I might left alone starving on the trail that same day?! And this went on for almost a week...3 times a day.

Paul, on the other hand, was disdainful of all of the meat and instead brought his special concoctions that he made himself from all organic ingredients, where the cost of making the food was no object. So, we have a tupperware box full of Chocolate chip cookies and granola bars that tasted better than the brownies we get for a once a month treat at the way, that box of granola bars was so big, that even with me holding the box in my lap....we didn't finish it off until the last day of the trip.

 Me, I brought vegetables, if baked beans count as a vegetable, and some other stuff that never got used, because there was some much better food to eat.

Thank God, we were out on the trail most of the days. My heartrate averaged about 135bpm while riding, and if you think that an electric bike makes things effortless, there is always the prospect of riding full blast into a tree, falling in the rocks, or at the least, running out of juice and having to push a 70lb bike uphill to get back to camp. What those bikes do is make it where you can actually pedal that 70 pounds uphill in a place that you couldn't pedal a regular mountain bike for very long. Downhill? That same heavy weight became a juggernaut and we soon learned if we wanted to ride in the mountains, we needed much better brakes! I can repeat something you probably already know: that no matter how long and hard you exercise...a bad diet beats good exercise every time!

Next up: We find out why we never saw anybody else out riding on the trail...


Saturday, September 18, 2021

The Boys, The Bikes, And The Broken


When we were young, Paul, Jerry Carr, and I took a trip up to north Georgia to ride our dirt bikes. It was a one-off thing, but I still remember it fondly. After Paul, Steve, and I had been riding our electric mountain bikes in the wilds of Florida for a summer, it occurred to me that these machines might do well up in Georgia. Thus, we hatched a plan that consisted of a long drive and 4 days of hard riding and seeing if we had changed much since those early days.

I picked Fort Mountain State Park in northern Georgia, because I had been there camping with Pam and Ollie. I saw all of the mountain bikers in the campground and heard that it was an epic place to ride...I must not have listened closely.

The ride up was smooth, Steve driving the whole way, in spite of me insisting that I would be glad to drive as long as it was not raining, not dark and no where near Atlanta. As is usual on such a trip from Florida, all predictions were that we would arrive by 3pm and we got there around 8pm....all those predictions assume that we could always drive the speed limit and you never needed to stop for gas, food or restroom breaks.

In spite of that very long drive, including Google taking us straight through the heart of Atlanta, Steve pulled in, hooked up and then grilled us supper...or at least he was willing to. He had purchased a brand new gas grill, specifically designed to fit in the small space he had. We had packed in enough food to feed 6 of us for 2 weeks, because we knew it was a long drive down the mountain to Chatsworth, which supposedly had a grocery store.

I was helping with the paper plates and silverware, getting some baked beans going and locating soft drinks for the 3 of us when Steve suddenly realized his fancy new grill only worked with a giant bottle of Propane, the kind you use for a home grill. Steve had 5 brand new bottles of the little ones you use for camping...and no adapter to hook them up...

Man, those were the best peanut butter sandwiches that night! I thought to myself that something had to go wrong on any given trip, and we got it out of the way on the first day...if that's the worst thing, we're good!

.....not so fast, Perkins....