Monday, May 28, 2007

New Pictures

I spent the weekend at Balticon 41, a science fiction convention in Baltimore. It was great, and maybe I'll write more after I get some sleep. In the meantime, I've put up several pages of new pictures for you from my camping trip...

George Washington's Birthplace
Westmoreland Berry Farm

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Camping - May-13-2007 PM

Pictures of George Washington's Birthplace

I have never been to Mt. Vernon to see George Washington’s home, but I have now seen his birthplace. I’m not a big one on heroes, but I’ve always liked GW. I am so glad I took to time to go there. I almost didn’t, but after getting up so early and breaking camp before 9 am, I had lots of time to kill. The lady at the visitor’s center (her name was Pocohantas – she said her mom wanted to give her an unusual name) told me that last night's rainstorm was even wilder than I had realized. It didn't just seem bad to me in the tent, the visibility was so poor that it took her three times as long as normal to get from her daughter's house to her home. See, it wasn't just me, that rain was crazy.

I got a private tour of the spinning and weaving shed, which was the highlight of my visit. The tour guide/ranger lady had only been at this site for a few months so she didn’t know much about the equipment. I got a special thrill out of identifying several niddy noddies and drop spindles. She even let me try a couple of the spindles. They were just replicas, but fun nonetheless. It made me wonder how much more fun the blacksmith, cooper and other craftsmen’s tools would be if I knew anything about using them. It’s funny how knowing what something is and how it is used turns it from just a dusty, strangely-shaped hunk of wood into something fascinating. One of the other highlights of the tour was when one of the other guests sat down at a replica harpsichord/spinnet and played a minuet for us. He knew a lot about the colonial period… more than the tour guide lady. All in all, a lot of fun.

It was so early and cool from the rain that he was perfectly happy sleeping in the TinkTerra while I walked around.

Berry Farm Pictures

I took him in with me when we went to our next stop… the berry farm. We went back for another strawberry shortcake ice cream combo and a flat of berries to bring home. I really need to do something to make that dog behave better in public.

The rest of the trip was just a long drive home. It wasn’t that long, really, I was just so tired from the rain the night before that I could hardly keep my eyes open. We got home about 2 and I just now got finished unloading the car. I still have a lot of stuff to put away. Now I am blogging and Harley is sound asleep in his bed beside me. It was a lot of fun, but now I need to go back to work so I can get some rest. (cliché, I know, but true)

Camping - May-13-2007 AM

I'm sitting in the TinkTerra, the haunting aroma of wet leaves, damp nylon and dirty laundry wafting through the air. Harley shivers on the seat beside me, upset because I won't let him help tell our story. A tropical breeze (hurricanes are tropical, aren't they) dances through the leaves above me. My feet are wet, my clothes are wet, Harley's nose is wet. (Maybe my nose is wet too, I'm not saying.) As you may have guessed, we had a touch of rain last night.

It started about 11:00 with a loud bang of thunder. Harley forgot all about the frogs and dove under the covers with me. He wasn't happy when I crawled out of the tent to try to put the firewood and charcoal out of the coming rain. I could have saved my time because it did no good. Only the stuff that was actually in the tent or the car stayed dry, and not all of that. I can't say just how bad the rain was because it always seems worse when you're in a tent, but it was pretty bad. Thunder, lightning... all the special effects. It reminded me of my childhood and why I hate thunderstorms. Being older and wiser, I wasn't frightened... much. I distracted myself by chatting with my other good buddy, also known as Chris, and checking the weather on my Blackberry. By the time I had typed a few semi-coherent sentences on the tiny keys of the Blackberry the thunder had lessened and it had settled in to rain. I don't know how long the storm lasted, I fell asleep at 12:30 or so and it was still going strong.

Everything was wet when we woke up at 7:30 this morning except for Harley, I and the backpack containing my books and this laptop. We were going to light a fire and have breakfast, but I discovered that the charcoal and wood were soaked through and so was the one folding chair I had stacked them on. When I went to pick up the bag of charcoal, the bag disintegrated, and wet charcoal fell into the gallon or so of water in the chair's seat. Don't ask me why I didn't put that stuff in the car. My only defense was that I was tired and stupid. After a shower and a change of clothes, I decided to pack up the tent. It only took me about an hour and a half to get everything in the car. I don't know what we will do today, but we'll not stay here. With my only chair soaking wet and black with charcoal, I have nowhere to sit and nothing really to do. Besides, once I start packing, I can't seem to stop and now that I'm packed up there doesn't seem to be much sense in staying here. I think we'll go try to f ind George Washington's birthplace and see if they allow pets at all. At the very least I should be able to get some pictures.

Harley is shivering too much, I need to go. I'll finish this later today. Isn't camping fun??

Camping - May-12-2007 PM

Is it really camping if you take your laptop, iPod, PDA and Blackberry? At least I left the portable DVD player at home. I didn't do much with the iPod except listen to it while driving around, and I left the PDA on the charger the entire trip. But I chatted with my best buddy, Chris, online and sent multiple emails and talked on the phone to my mom a few times. In fact, when the car charger for my Blackberry broke I took a 12 mile trip into town to find a Radio Shack and buy a replacement. While I was there I bought a new digital camera to replace the one that I brought with me. It has been acting up for a while, but I thought it was a battery problem. It is a power issue, but the problem is with the camera, not the batteries. I got a really good deal on a 6 megapixel Samsung so I will have pictures to post almost as soon as I get home instead of having to wait for them to get developed. I have a bad habit of letting film sit around for years undeveloped, so I don't like to count on film cameras if I can help it.

The weather stayed beautiful all day today. It clouded up a little this morning but that just kept it from getting too warm. Just to be on the safe side, since I couldn't go swimming during the warm part of the day, Harley and I took the aforementioned trip to town. The guy at Radio Shack was great about letting Harley wander around the shop with me. I found the plug right away and then I tried to find a little something for my mom. The problem is that she already has every conceivable gadget. The poor guy would suggest something, like an iPod or digital camera, and I would tell him that she already has multiples of them. We just couldn't come up with anything she didn't have. It wasn't a total loss, as I found the camera I mentioned above and got a plug for my Blackberry. Oh, and I also got a new toy for Harley. A dragonfly that actually flies! He's going to love it. Actually, he does love it, because the Radio Shack guy gave him a demo and Harley went nuts.

We stopped at a little craft/gift store on the way back to camp and I got a couple of little handmade gifts for my mom. Most of the stuff was pretty awful, but I got her a tote bag and eyeglass case made out of matching kitty cat fabric and a set of wind chimes. She'll probably hate them, but that's what she gets for having too much stuff already.

On the way back I saw an enormous sign advertising a Berry Farm. I turned around and went down this side road for about three miles to find this farm. It was worth the trip. This place was so neat. They had a little shop with every possible kind of preserves and honey. I bought all of the sugar free kind except for the fig preserves, yuck. I also got sugar free blueberry syrup and sugar free maple praline syrup. I'll let you know if they're any good. I found some goat's milk lotion for my mom, too. I don't know what goats had to do with berries, but they had a bunch of them for the kids to pet. I didn't get to go back there because Harley was being a butthead, but I did see the one on the feeding platform 20 or so feet in the air. Pictures will be forthcoming soon. I will look up the name of the place and let you know. It's on the jars of preserves, I'm sure, I'm just too lazy to look it up right now.

I had lunch at the farm. They had a little snack shack with hamburgers, hot dogs and barbecue sandwiches. They also had strawberry shortcake, of course. I had the strawberry shortcake with ice cream. The cake was still warm and fresh and the strawberries were delicious. I bought a quart to bring back to camp but now I'm wishing I had gotten an entire flat of them. I can't remember the last time I had strawberries that actually tasted good. These were amazing, ripe and freshly picked and sweet. I wonder if I'll have time to stop on the way home. I would have to leave a little early, but it's something I can take home that I KNOW my mom will actually love.

We got back to camp about 2 and have been lazing around ever since. I read for a few hours before starting the fire at five. Harley has decided he loves camping if for no other reason than the food. He has this trick he does to get food. He finds something he knows you want and he brings it to you and then he waits for his treat. While I was roasting the first hot dog, I saw him looking around and I knew he had something on his mind. Suddenly he saw the stick I had been poking the fire with for the last two days and he picked it up and brought it to me. It amazes me, not that he found the one stick out of many that I had been using – it would have my scent all over it, but that he made the connection that this was something I cared about. This dog is too smart to be as obnoxious as he is. Because, no matter how fun and funny he is, he was really obnoxious to strangers on this trip. One really adorable little girl of about four years old tried to pet him and he tried to nip at her fingers. He also nipped at one of the campground worker's feet when the guy was talking to me. I will find an obedience class for him asap. I can't have him behaving this way. He is just too smart to act this stupid.

After dinner I took Harley out to the big open field in front of the campground and we played with bubbles until he was worn out. Now I'm sitting here, typing and listening to the kids across the way play with their boats. From what I can tell they have a paddle boat and a canoe and they're having a great time. I took a couple of pictures of them, too. I don't know how noisy it got around here during the day, but this kind of noise I don't mind. The sun has gone down now and it'll be dark soon. It's almost 8 and I'm already getting tired. Harley is tuckered out. He's flat on his side on the blanket on the ground next to me, not even noticing the kids across the pond.

Mom said that she mentioned to my dad today that things are much quieter and easier without Harley around but my dad said, "But I miss him!" Notice, neither of them said they missed me! More in the morning.

Camping - May-12-2007 AM

I slept really well last night once I let some air out of the air bed. I have a double decker air bed that can be split into two if necessary. It's nice, but I found out that if you put too much air into both mattresses, you rock around on top like a ship on a stormy sea and capsizing is all too real a possibility. I made both mattresses a little gooshier and all was well. Harley didn't sleep very well, though. He is afraid of the dark and he lay on my legs and shivered from cold and nerves, staring out over the pond. It's funny, when we camped in the woods of Pennsylvania the frogs were so loud it made your ears bleed but camping here next to the pond, the frogs made very little noise. I had a small battery-operated fan that I bought yesterday at Walmart and it masked some of the night noises so that Harley could sleep. They don't bother me, but he's a wuss. I woke up a couple of times in the night to add a blanket to the bed, and at one point I turned the fan off but Harley got so agitated that I turned it back on and pointed it towards the ceiling. No, he's not spoiled!

We got up about seven this morning and while I puttered around, Harley found the tracks of some small animal that had wandered across our campsite. I had a heck of a time keeping him from waking all of our neighbors with his barking. We are the only ones here in a tent, so I didn't worry about it overly much. Before breakfast we went for a bike ride. When I first got Harley I thought about buying a bike trailer so that he could ride behind me while I biked. Now I'm thinking about getting him a harness so he can pull me up hills! For a small dog, he's about 15 pounds, this dog is fast and strong. We only went a mile or so because I didn't want him to overdo it, but he was having fun. Even wearing his collar there were times he was pulling me because he thought I was going too slowly. I let him for a few minutes, just to see if he could, but then I discouraged it because it's bad manners. Speaking of bad manners, he had to challenge everyone we met on our ride... other bikers, dogs, squirrels, birds... I have got to get this dog obedience trained!

After the bike ride we came back to camp and I lit a fire with some charcoal and a couple of remaining logs from last night. It's been burning for over an hour now and shows no sign of running out of fuel. Harley and I shared a couple of marshmallows, but it's too early for hot dogs. We'll save those for dinner, I think. I need to get ice and clean up the campsite a little, but otherwise the rest of my day is free. The campground is doing some kind of “clean up” party today because this is the first weekend of the year in which they are open. I declined to volunteer. I don't mind a little work, but I have a lot of mindless activity planned for this weekend... biking, napping, reading, napping, sketching, napping, writing, napping, and maybe even some sleeping. I don't mean to be a party pooper but I'm not here to work as free labor for the campground.

Harley is sleeping on his blanket on the ground next to me. I'm sitting in the screenhouse on a folding chair while I type on the laptop. The weather is beautiful. They predicted thunderstorms for this weekend but yesterday was clear and sunny and not too warm. This morning started out sunny and looked like it was going to be hot, but now the clouds are coming in. If it rains, we'll either hole up in the tent or go for a car ride. We are only a couple of miles from George Washington's birthplace and I think Robert E. Lee's birthplace is nearby, too. I wanted to find some fun shops to find a present for my mom for Mother's Day, but I don't think that's likely to happen. There's a big antiques barn down the road, but I don't think they'd allow me to take Harley in and it didn't look very promising anyway. Honestly, I just want to hang out at the camp today, but it's good to have an alternate plan. I just hope the clean up crew doesn't make too much noise. Already there is a camp employee raking leaves at the campsite next door. At least she isn't using the leaf blower like the guys were yesterday. I need some ear plugs. Maybe I'll get out the iPod. I wonder if I have any nature sounds I could listen to. More later.

Camping - May-11-2007

Harley and I left the house at about 9:30 in the morning. I didn't even start to pack until after 6 Thursday night so I was in no hurry to get going. Also because I didn't pack until the last minute, I had forgotten a dozen things I needed (or wanted) for the trip. We stopped at Walmart to get a tarp and a couple of other items and I planned on stopping once we got closer to get the hot dogs, buns and other last minute food items. The directions I got from Mapquest took us to a dead end that may once have connected to the campground, but no longer did. I called them and got good directions and we finally got here about 1:00. Unfortunately, by the time I realized we were close, there were no grocery stores or even drugstores around. We checked into the campground and I picked a site overlooking the pond. I have pictures, which I will get developed and share with you later, but they should be worth waiting for. This is a very pretty campsite. There are quite a few bugs, but I brought Mom's pop up screen house and we have been fairly safe so far.

Before I could get the tent out of the car, I had to unload the bike from the trailer hitch bike rack and remove the rack. I could have gotten the tent out first, but I didn't want to fight with the bike while I did it.

Camping Pictures

It took me about an hour to put up the tent. It should have been less than half of that, but Harley refused to help. He stood to one side and offered suggestions, but they weren't very helpful. On the other hand, he was diligent about chasing away any stray bugs, dogs, squirrels or children that wandered by. I got the tent up with a minimum of injury and we went back to the office to finish registering and to buy some bug spray. I found out that their “store” mainly consists of bug spray, marshmallows and a paperback trade in. I drove a couple of miles back down route 3 to the nearest convenience store and bought some cheese, ice, diet sodas and so on. They didn't have any beef franks, just weiners which I refuse to eat. I came back to camp, set up the air bed and unloaded the car. By then I really wanted a swim but it turns out the pond is not open for swimming at all and the swimming pool is closed until Memorial Day. I read for a while and then, getting hungry and not wanting just peanut butter and cheese, Harley and I went back out on the road. We finally found a small local store which smelled heavily of cigarette smoke and dirt and had the most peculiar dog wandering around in it despite the fact that they sold open food. He really was odd, he was half golden retriever and half welsh corgi. He had the face, body and coloring of a golden, but his legs were 1/3 the normal height. Very funny looking.

The local store had beef franks! We came back and lit a fire and I toasted hot dogs for Harley and I and we shared a few marshmallows. After dinner it started to get dark and I was worn out from the lack of sleep all week and the work of setting up the tent and camp, so we drove to the bathroom and I took a quick shower and got ready for bed. I read for a while (Tamora Pierce's Trickster's Queen) and then we walked back for one last potty break before bed. Now it's about 10:30 and I'm off to sleep.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Going Camping

I had a couple of vacation days I had to take or I would lose them. Since work is so busy I decided to take one here and another there instead of trying to take them all at once. So, I have tomorrow off and I have packed all of my camping gear into the TinkTerra and Harley and I are going to leave at the crack of noon tomorrow. We are staying at a campground near the shore so I am taking the bike with me. Harley loves running next to the bike and I like to ride where the ground is flat. It's too hilly around here for it to be much fun. It took Dad and I over an hour to put the bike rack together. It meant I had to take off the Tinker Bell trailer hitch cover, but I'll put it back on as soon as I get back. We'll only be gone until Sunday, and I'll do my best to blog about it then.