Adventures with Lisa, Frank & Daisy Dewdrop

Steinbeck and Audra State Park
September 2, 2006, 2:01 pm
Filed under: Travel, Uncategorized

I find it odd, as an English major, I was never exposed to Steinbeck in college. I stumbled upon the first book I read of his, a collection of his letters, at a book giveaway about eight years after graduation.

It was the first non-how-to book I had read all the way through since college, and I fell in love with his writing.

While looking for more how-to’s for travel writing and photography on Amazon, I stumbled upon a 55-cent copy of Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley- In Search of America” and bought it just to see how Steinbeck narrarated his travels.

What I found within was his own style of doing it, his masterful way of using a single conversation to reflect an entire location. He had no interest in itineraries or tourism boards, and often he chose to avoid the main attractions.

But the line that forced me to find my yellow highlighter was this:

“What I set down here is true until someone else passes that way and rearranges the world in his own style.”

Travel writing has a foundation in place, but travel is more about the experience than the location.

Frank and I have been to Audra State Park (our favorite WV State Park) four times. We have been there in the spring, summer and fall, and each experience – although in the same location – has been very different.

Our first trip was miserable, with car problems resulting in us setting up camp in the dark, in the rain. During the night, a downpour sent run off water through our camp, right under the tent. I slept in the back of the vehicle once I was soaked.

Our second trip was in the spring, when the river roars with the melted snow from the mountains. It lapped at the edge of the camp site, murky beneath white caps, swift and strong. Nights are cold in the spring mountains, and the campground was sparsely populated, and quiet – except for the roar of the river.

We went again that fall. We chase our river side campsite, and I looked with disappointment on the trickling waters that wandered and twisted between large boulders in the river bed that had been hidden beneath liquid in the spring. There was no river roar, barely even a gurgle. But in the fall, the colors of the leaves demand your attention instead, and walks along the river are spent looking both up at the trees, and down among the gravel to examine the treasures uncovered by water.

In the peak of the summer, Audra itself takes back stage as people fill each nook and cranny of the park. Those with campsites near pools in the river are subject to visits by those who are camped near a mere trickle of running water. People walk their dogs, pull young children in wagons, kids ride bikes around and around and around the campground’s paved path. There is no quiet at night; you can hear your neighbor’s snoring, and the hound dog at the far side of the campground. Morning visits to the shower house are not quiet treks in the morning fog, but social events where campers gather in their sweat pants and pajamas to process camp-cooked food and wash their hands.

Each camping excursion was to the same location, but the experience, the people, even Audra was in a different mood each time.

I prefer the spring, when the river roars, and the summer campers are still yet home, tucked in their warm beds at night, camper still covered in the driveway.


Packing: It’s All in the Bag
September 1, 2006, 3:49 pm
Filed under: Travel

Frank and I have lots of bags. Big bags, little bags, insulated bags. Camera bags, duffel bags, garment bags, hip bags.

My husband, by the way, is the master of packing and preparedness.

When we decided to become active campers two years ago, we had no system. Cooking utensils were borrowed from our kitchen, as was silverware, clothing, boots, coats, blankets – all were gathered from hither and yon and thrown into bags.

This did not work well.

First we established the Cooking Bag. This is a multipocket duffel bag. We upgraded our camping cookery items and set them for camping only. When washed at home after a trip, they are simply returned to the Cooking Bag.

Next came the Table Bag. This is an insulated back pack. Metal plates and cups and camp silverware. Napkins, tablecloths, towels and washcloths for dealing with dishes. All for camping only.

We mastered the “camp kitchen” the first summer with those two bags. And established The First Aid Bag – which was originally a flat messenger type handbag.

The next year, we established the Bath Bag, another duffel. Shampoo, conditioner matching washcloths, scrubbies and towells, toothbrush and toothpaste, razors, – all dedicated to the Bath Bag only and not every day use.

And then, The Hiking Bag (backpack). This holds the First Aid Bag, the Walkie Talkie Bag, the GPS bag, and one Camera Bag (We have two).

Then there’s the Tarp and Ropes Bag (army bag), the Tent Bag (army bag), the Tools Bag (army bag), the Maps and Books Bag (book bag), the Air Mattress Bag (formerly a tennis racket bag), the Food Box, the Fire Box, and the Coleman lantern bucket.

(The lantern bucket idea we got from Frank’s friend Norman. Take a 5-gallon bucket, cut a hole in the lid the same size as the cap on the lantern, and run padded foam around the inside of the bucket. It keeps the lantern stable, protected, and can hold mantles and matches and such. Works GREAT!)

All these bags, boxes and bucket are already packed.

But, then there’s the Coat and Shoes bag (rubber-type thing), Frank’s Bag (duffel), my suitcase (a metal briefcase my dad had that makes a nice bedside table in the tent when closed), my make-up and hair bag, and the coolers.

And the fishing pole and tackle box.

Of course we also take two hats, my purse, and Frank’s wallet.

So, seventeen bags, two boxes, one bucket, three coolers, two huggies, one fishing pole and tackle box, two hats, one purse and one wallet later. . .

I think we’re ready to go.