Friday, September 18, 2015

Shift happens

   One recent morning, I was glad to have the comforter on the bed.  When I woke up, it was a bit nippy.  There was a touch of Autumn in the air. 
   Which was frustrating, because September has always been hot, likely the hottest month overall, here in Claremont.  That is, although it may have cool days with wonderful hints of Fall, some of the year’s hottest days come in September – and not just early in the month. It can also get awfully hot in October. 
   This is hard for someone like me who doesn’t like the heat and looks forward to it cooling off in the Fall after the long hot Summer. For this reason, Fall is my favorite time of year. Although it is terribly politically incorrect, I can understand why they used to call these not-part-of-the-bargain, gypping heat waves in late September and October “Indian Summer.”  
   In fact, when I was growing up, this was “Fair weather” – the beastly hot weather that always came along with the Los Angeles County Fair during September in Pomona nearby.  Also, it was a joke that the Claremont colleges do their hiring in February, when it’s cool and gorgeous, with the palm trees and oranges shining in the sunny skies with snow-capped Mt. Baldy in the background.  The new professors would move here in late August and despair over what they had gotten themselves into.  At that time, there was also the smog which was far worse than it is now. 
   All this is bad enough. At least it wasn’t humid back then.  In recent years, it has gotten humid during the summer, and more and more so.  This summer has been totally crazy.  It rained in July, which would never happen before, and it rained more than two inches a few days ago.  During this downpour, it wasn’t exactly cool, much less cold, and it didn’t provide much relief – the next few days are slated to heat up again.  What is this?  Hawaii?  Miami?  This definitely wasn’t part of the sunny So. Cal. bargain.
   Years ago, a professor here said that it looked like the weather was moving northward.  He thought everything would be shifting north, that we here in Southern California would be getting Mexico’s tropical weather and the San Francisco Bay Area would get our hot weather. This was before talk of global warming, and I don’t know if this is a part of global warming or something else, but he was right.  Last week, when we were sweltering in the hundreds and humidity – yes, it was horrid! -  it was in the nineties in San Francisco. Can you imagine?   Ninety in San Francisco,  where at least my grandfather always said you need a coat in the summer.  (Didn’t Mark Twain also say that?) 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Camping fool

   I love traveling, getting out of town and the daily grind and going on adventures, and, for years and years, I have driven by campgrounds in beautiful places like the Central Coast or in the woods and wondered what it’s like to stay there.  I wondered what it was like to go camping like when I was a child and be so close to beautiful nature and not have to leave before it began getting dark.  Well, I’m not wondering anymore. Because now I’m doing it. 
   After two initial attempts last year, I am going on four weekend camping trips this Summer and early Fall – not counting camping at California WorldFest in July at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley – and, so far, it has been pretty terrific overall.
   I am finding out that it is indeed nice to be in a beautiful natural space for more than a few hours and not have to leave when evening is coming. It is nice to sit on a beach, a wild, rocky beach in its most natural state, for as long as I want, knowing that I only have to go a few hundred feet to get to where I’m staying.  I don’t have to worry about getting back into my hot van. I don’t have to think about a long, trafficky drive home, at least for a day or two. 
   But it’s more than being in a beautiful natural space; it’s living in it – not in a hotel or house there – but in the beautiful natural space.  It’s being a part of it, sharing it, having the honor and privilege of being a part of such beauty.  Yes, it gets rough and dirty, and there are bugs and critters (and stinky, usually barely accessible restrooms), and it sometimes gets frightfully windy. But this is part of being part of this beauty and part of the gorgeous sunset and incredibly starry night right there. (But, yes, I do like going home to my big, clean bathroom and a hot shower!)   
   And it is magical to be able to do this in my wheelchair.  I love getting up in this beautiful space, getting into some overalls (usually cut-offs with no shirt) and my boots and meandering off on my own after a good breakfast (and lots of sun-block on me, of course) to discover trails and a nice place to sit for an hour or three.  To me, this is the ultimate in freedom and independence.  It is truly liberating, not only physically but also for my mind and soul. 
   The California State Parks does a fantastic job in enabling me to do just this.  I have been on really cool wheelchair-accessible trails over wetlands and through groves with wildly twisted branches and neon green ponds and also able to get down cliffs to crashing waves on the shore.  Not only is this a great adventure, but I like seeing how people react to seeing me there (it ranges from “oh wow” delight to almost anger that I got in the way of their idyll).
   A word about that good breakfast and other meals.  Another fun thing about camping is cooking on a Coleman stove and what can be cooked on it.  Breakfast has been pancakes or fried eggs, grits and vegan bacon, along with orange juice and coffee. Dinners have included gnocchi from Trader Joes along with bagged fresh organic spinach, spaghetti with marinara sauce and vegan Italian sausage and zucchini,  white hominy and vegetarian chili and cheese along with crookneck squash and Tasty Bite Indian entrees over rice along with broccoli. All have been not hard to make and quite good – and all the better and more enjoyable out-of-doors. 
   I wish I had started doing this years ago. One reason I didn’t is that I thought it would be too difficult, especially for my attendant.  Yes, packing everything and setting up and taking down the equipment is a hassle, but not so much of a hassle. (I sleep on a futon pad in my van – surprisingly comfy – and I have a large tent for my attendants.) Packing carefully and being organized, including keeping the equipment in one place at home, is the trick, and getting a few large plastic tubs (instead of hunting down and using cardboard boxes,  which tended to fall apart) helped – all pretty obvious, I know, but it wasn’t at first. Also, taking things like a tea kettle, a centinella candle, oven mitts and a plastic table cloth makes things much easier and more pleasant, even with it being more to load and unload.  I’m thinking of getting a canopy for shade.
   I had envisioned camping trips as short, cheap getaways, and it’s turning out that that’s exactly what they are.  Not only am I going to place that are a few hours away at most (last month, I thoroughly enjoyed Morro Bay State Park – a bit far at four hours away – and El Capitan State Beach, and I’m looking forward to going to Dogwood Campground near Lake Arrowhead and to Refugio State Beach this month), but the price is right.  Because I’m disabled and have a pass, I pay half price for a campsite.  This means I pay about $40 for a two-night outing.  Plus, I can have up to 8 people staying there.  This sure beats at least $85 a night at a motel, plus going out and paying for restaurant meals, for me and one attendant.  As the Who would say, I call it a bargain!