Tuesday, January 31, 2012

60 Years of Camping, an Evolution

Our experience with the Airstream has me thinking about
redefining the term “camping”.

When I started to go camping as a kid, camping
meant canvas tents without floors, tents that would leak if you touched the
canvas while it was raining, big rectangular sleeping bags, that weighed a ton
and god-fucking-forbid you ever got one wet. No Gore-Tex existed and nothing
stayed dry even when it was dry and don’t get me started on the back packs and
other camping gear all designed to impart the most pain possible in the shortest
amount of time. Things are much better. I have a North Face backpack, it’s
comfortable, tough and I can lug 40-50 lbs on a good day, not that I will, but
I could. I have a synthetic down sleeping bag I bought in the late 80’s for a
$125.00 I’ve slept in it in 10 states, 3 Canadian provinces and a foreign
country…it is and was worth every penny, oh, and it works as well on a sailboat
as it does at 12,000 feet above sea level.

When I was younger, I was a back-packer as in; park the car
at a trailhead, load up and walk on a trail for 5-10 miles, camp and do the
same thing for the next 3 or 4 days. Hard work but refreshing. I’ve back packed
year round, I’ve even done it on skis in the Three Sisters Wilderness and in a
canoe in the Boundary Waters. The Boundary Waters trip included a confrontation
with a bear, a capsized canoe and a wicked rainstorm, I was wet for days and
still had a good time.

We now have a fantastic REI tent, great gear and the ability
to survive almost anything weather wise and still be able to read a Kindle at
one in the morning. We can cook top flight meals, drink good wine and booze, so
with that in mind why take the next step? Who the hell knows?

I have been fascinated with Airstream trailers for as long
as I can remember. Is it the iconic shape, the quality and the longevity? I don’t know I just like them. (We met a woman and her daughter in Big Sur with a 1961 Caravan model Airstream, it looked like new!) Another cool thing is they make people smile, even the bastards driving
three quarter of a million dollar motor coaches like them.

To put my Airstream jones to the test, I worked out a deal with a RV dealer who happens to sell AS. I now have the luxury of using an Airstream for 3 weeks this year, for as few as 3 days or as long as several weeks. Our vacation jaunt to Monterey, Big Sur and the Central Coast in January used 7 of the 21 days.

We thought the 16 foot Bambi was just too small. In retrospect, we brought too much shit with us. Granted 2 people can’t turn around in it, at least not at the same time. The bed is only 48 inches wide and that would have been fun early in our relationship, not so much now, since
getting “some” isn’t the first motivation in mind when I crawl into bed with the Cakes anymore. Almost 16 years of sleeping together does that to a relationship, especially when the female side cranks out 60 hour weeks on a regular basis. A guy has to pick his spots under those conditions. Frustrating at times, but realistic.

Our next trip is in August. Yosemite for a couple of days, a drive over Tioga Pass to Lee Vining, on to Mono Lake and we’ll wrap with several days in the high valleys just south of Mammoth camping off the grid on Forest Service land. We might even try out the natural hot springs in the area. The Airstream on this jaunt will be a 25 foot International, with a genuine
queen sized bed and enough room to turn around at the same time with the dog
sprawled on the floor. Even better it has a stall shower and a full sized fridge! Planning is underway.

Between then and now, we will take the big REI tent to Joshua Tree, Refugio Beach, Lake
Casitas and Anzo-Borrego, reports will be forthcoming.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Semper Fi

Double Jeopardy

The US military deals harshly with its own, despite what the
asshats running for the Republican nomination for President have said about the
“Pissing Marines” in Afghanistan, it wasn’t behavior that will be tolerated in
the USMC.
A friend of mine has a son in the Marines, good kid, two
years of college at UC-Riverside. Joined the Marines a couple of years ago,
after boot Camp he was trained to as an Air-Ground Combat Controller and
assigned to the Air-Ground Combat Center at 29 Palms, he had a security
clearance and dealt with communications and drone mission planning. He was
quickly promoted to Lance Corporal and then to Corporal. He was scheduled to go
to Afghanistan this past April.
In late March of 2011, he broke up with his longtime
girlfriend, got drunk, went off the road, hit a light pole and got a DUI. That
was Friday, he spent that night in the Riverside County lockup. The next day
the Marines picked him up and took him to the brig at 29 Palms and he spent
Saturday and Sunday night in USMC custody. His “Top” picked him up on Monday
afternoon and took him back to the company area, told him to take a shower, get
into a clean uniform and report to the Company Commanders office in 15 minutes.
At a short meeting , he was charged with Article 15 level of punishment,
reduced to private, lost his pay for 90 days, his security clearance was
rescinded and he was restricted to the company area for 90 days. A few weeks
later, he was told he would not be going on his deployment with the Battalion
and he was reassigned to a Marine Infantry Company based at Camp Pendleton.
After he spent a month doing weapons and ammunition inventory, his new Battalion
embarked for their 6 month Pacific cruise, he was on board.
In California it takes 90-120 days to get a DUI case into
court, his civilian attorney couldn’t speed up the process while he was at Camp
Pendleton and ended up getting a delay to cover him during his cruise. When he
got back from the 6 month cruise, he was reassigned to his old unit. When he
reported, the Company Commander and his Top greeted him with open arms, telling
him now that all the bullshit on the DUI was cleared up, they were going to
give him his stripes back, reinstate his security clearance and he could get
back to work, all was forgiven.
When he told them he still had to go to county court on the
DUI, they about shit their utilities. They sent him to the Marine JAG office to
get help. Hopefully this poor kid who has been punished by the Marines won’t be
punished by the state of California too. He is due in Court in the middle of February.

Monday, January 9, 2012

What a trip, man!

Big Sur Coastline
Dudes, the Dog and Gramps in Carmel by the Sea
CA Highway 46 on the road from Cambria to Paso Robles

The Long Awaited Anniversary Trip, the goals were simple and straight forward:
1. See the Grandsons and give them a 2nd Christmas.
2. Take the first step in analyzing whether we want to
invest in an Airstream.
3. Have some down time and fun.
All three missions, accomplished!
We gave the boys each a “bank roll” and it was interesting how they handled the newly minted bills. (Consecutive numbers, BTW) The little one sealed his in an envelope and no matter how many stores we went into he refused to buy anything. The thirteen (soon) year old
folded his into his pocket and ended up buying some camo gear to wear when he
does his soft pellet “combat operations”. The boy’s favorite retail stop was a big Military Surplus store on Highway One just down the road from Moss Landing. If you need anything, I mean
anything, military this place has it. You can buy a deuce and a half if you need one, one pint emergency water pouches with a five year life span, MRE meat sandwiches or a full set of Roman armor complete with Gladius. Hell of a place!
I brought my Dutch oven and the boys and I baked biscuits, could have put more coals on the top, they were close to perfect if not perfectly brown. We had a late lunch one day in Carmel and
the food trading that went on between the two of them was outstanding. “I’ll
give you a piece of my pulled pork sandwich for a chicken tender. Okay, but you
have to give me some garlic fries and one of those pickles. Okay. Wait a minute!
I said fries, not fry!” And on it went.
Additional observations: they never take off
their stocking hats. Hoodies, flannel shirts, oversized tee shirts and jeans
are the kid uniform of today, I couldn’t tell mine from any other kid on the
street. Thank god my kids are readers, noses in books is a very good thing!
We rented a Design Within Reach Airstream Bambi. The
smallest of the Airstream line with every convenience, stove, refrigerator,
furnace, AC, audio/ video system, direct/indirect lighting, full bathroom,
plenty of hot water all stuffed into 16 feet. The bed was long enough, but only
48 inches wide, I had a hell of a time getting into the dinette on the kitchen
side of the unit and I didn’t like sitting on the toilet to shower. It should
have two batteries, rather than one, the furnace fan sucks electricity
like crazy. You learn to conserve water and power, when we were in the RV park
near Carmel, we turned on every light in the trailer and used a gallon of water
to wash off an orange. When we were off grid at Kirk Creek in Big Sur, we lit
the interior with a candle and only popped a light on to find another bottle of
wine. Conservation of energy makes one 12 volt battery last 3 days. The fridge and the water heater are “three way” devices, 12 volt, propane and 110, the trailer had a smart charging system and changed things over automatically. Not much storage and since Jan and I haul
way too much stuff with us along with the dog and his stuff, it was crowded.
After I moved most of my stuff to the Jeep, it was better. The Jeep has a
Tow/Haul mode, when you push the button for T/H the computer takes charge and
readjusts the suspension, the transmission and the engine parameters, all I can
say is WOW! Coupled with the “active cruise control” we went down the grade to
San Luis Obispo and never touched the brakes. The Jeep pulled the Airstream
through Big Sur like it wasn’t there, taking the tight and twistys right at the
speed limit. Old Wally Byam who designed the AS suspension system back in the
30’s knew what he was doing!
We loved the experience and we are going to try a bigger
unit the next time. I think a 25 foot trailer would be perfect. As a side note, the folks in the massive motor coaches do the following; pull into the parking place, hop out, hook up,
climb back in, hit the leveling system, push the buttons for the curtains, the
slides and the satellite dish and you never see them again. Weird.
Kirk Creek is a National Forest Service campground in Big
Sur. Elevation is 114 feet above sea level and since it’s located on a series
of bluffs overlooking the coast, it’s a 114 foot drop to the rocks and beach!
The sites are spacious, it’s clean, there is no phone, no computer, no potable
water, no electricity, it does however have flush toilets. The nearest cell
phone service is 18 miles away at Ragged Point, there are two wide spots in the
road on Highway One, Lucia and Gorda. Gorda has a gas station, 5.75 for regular.
As we drove by on the way to Cambria, I noticed a guy pulling in for gas at Gorda, he was driving a Porsche Cayenne, his big surprise was going to be paying just over 6 bucks for Sup-ah!
I learned long ago, buy gas (and everything really) before you head for
Big Sur. It’s isolated, its primitive and the services are few, the upside is
one of the rangers is an EMT.
Big Sur is a wonderful place ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Sur) its magical and we love it. We did the hike from Kirk Creek to the rocky beach at the base of the cliffs. My foot and right leg are still sore.
We ate well, including a tri tip on the little Weber with baked potatoes done in the
coals of our camp fire. Jan drank wine, I drank whiskey. We ate chocolate and
cookies and devoured a half a box of cuties. We listened to music, read books
and I awakened Jan from a dead sleep at 3am to take a walk in the moonlight to
listen to the surf booming on the rocks. A week of going to bed at ten and
getting up at 8 feels pretty damn good. It was a great way to celebrate our
Our last night we spent in Paso Robles, we met Tom and Lana
Cochrun, Mike and Jacque Griffin at the Windward Winery,( http://www.windwardvineyard.com/) tasted wine, met Mark Goldberg the owner/ winemaker, then previewed Lana’s upcoming show of recent paintings and went to dinner at Il Cortile (http://www.ilcortileristorante.com/ICR/Home.html) Outstanding food, outstanding wine, 3 of them from Windward…spectacular friends, conversation, food, wine and warmth. One of the best nights we’ve had in a long time!
Lana Cochrun, after taking years off to teach art and to raise
the Cochrun girls is now painting again, learning and growing, her work is
wonderful and if she’d get off her butt and build a website, there would be a
link! Jan has her eye a lighthouse painting to go with another “Lana” we
already have!