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Buono Pomeriggio! (Good Afternoon), my friends.  I hope you’ve all had as wonderful a weekend as I’ve had.

Believe it or not, this sign was posted on the road leading to the boat ramp at Watsadler, on beautiful Lake Hartwell in Hartwell, GA, where I de-stressed this weekend.  Considering that the road leads to a boat ramp that is amply marked as such, this sign would seem redundant.  Apparently not, or they wouldn’t have wasted the money on such expensive signage; especially considering the dire financial situation all state and national parks are in these days.  Doesn’t say much for our local driving populace, does it?

The latest evidence of the recreational area’s financial hardship to come to my attention was that the individual trash cans that were once a staple at all the campsites have been removed.  It is now the responsibility of the camper to tote their trash to the dumpsters at the dump station by the exit.  Apparently, a cut in head count and the need to further cut costs at all costs, (trash pick-up, trash can maintenance and replacement, etc.), has further affected the amenities at recreation areas throughout the country.  Not that I’m complaining about having to haul trash.  That’s a minor inconvenience.  It’s the deeper ramifications behind those cuts that bother me.

The campground was, as always, in stellar shape.  The grass was manicured, the restrooms were clean, (although not cleaned as often as they used to be), and the sites were clean, roomy and beautiful.   I just fear for the fate of our state and national parks as I see the small amenities going by the wayside.  Camping has always been an affordable and truly special and worthwhile pursuit for families wanting to spend time together in the outdoors; far away from the boob tube and the Xbox.  I’m afraid that, given the current budget cut trends, what few state parks manage to survive those budget cuts will have to charge as much per night as a night in a luxury hotel just to stay afloat and will become inaccessible to the very people who benefit most from them.  The current rate for most of the state parks in my area is around $22 per night, (tax included), with water and electricity.  That’s $44 per weekend.  That rate has more than doubled since my children were younger and we were camping, at least, two weekends a month.  Now $44 for a weekend doesn’t seem at all bad considering that you have to buy groceries whether you’re home or camping, (and once you have all your gear), so, while your grocery bill might be just a wee bit more, (adding marshmallows, graham crackers and Hershey bars for the requisite smores), the added expenses are minimal and $44 is still, pretty much, do-able for most of us.  But what if that doubles again, to $88 for a weekend, within the next few years because funding for these parks is cut further?  Will it still be a viable, affordable way for the average, working class family to spend a weekend together enjoying our natural resources?  What’s going to happen when the budget is cut so deeply that state and national parks start closing their gates completely?  Surprise, surprise:  it’s happening daily and at an alarming rate.  Will our grandchildren still be able to take their children camping for a weekend, or will they have to read about it in the history books?  Everyone’s politics are their own business, but please consider this when you decide on your candidates at the polls in the next election.  When free senate haircuts and the myriad of other freebies and perks for our elected officials remain in play, yet our state and national treasures suffer and may even become inaccessible to “We the People,” it’s time for a change.  Elected officials do still work for us, don’t they?

*stepping off the soap box* Sorry about the influx of politics, but this situation rocks me to my very core.  I’ll be writing a few letters to my representatives in Washington and if I don’t get the answers I’m looking for, I’ll do my part as a registered voter to insure their ride on my tax dollar funded gravy train is over.

Better than Prozac!

Anyway, this picture pretty much sums up my weekend.  The weather was about as nice as you could ask for; high 70’s with the occasional passing cloud during the day and low 50’s at night.  No heat or AC were needed this weekend.  Sleeping with the windows and roof vent open, smelling the pines on the lake breeze and the occasional whiff of frying bacon in the morning  just added additional fluff to an already perfect weekend.  Throw in the sesame-ginger marinated London Broil, roasted over the coals, and the baked potato Friday night, and the grilled Italian sausage, onion and pepper hoagies with Provolone cheese and potato salad Saturday night, (and a few malty beverages), and I reiterate this weekend’s title, “Ahhhhhhhh!”

I did have one technical difficulty this weekend but I’m hoping that’ll be easily corrected next weekend.  Sometime during the trip to the campground, (probably after I momentarily lost sight of the Das Nook in the rearview as it plummeted into one of the many, ever-present, man-eating potholes that have become an epidemic around here), a crack started along one of the box mounts between the front of the camper and the tongue storage box.  I’m presently rethinking the addition of the brackets from the tongue to the box that I bolted on last weekend, but the problem would still persist whether the brackets are there or not.  The tongue itself is mounted to the trailer frame by one huge bolt through a bracket under the camper.  This allows some flex and presents a bit of a pivot point.  The minor flex experienced along a normal road is of no significance, but hitting pot holes and bouncing down a lot of the rugged, rutty, back roads leading to some campgrounds will allow the tongue to pivot and flex enough to overpower the added strength the brackets added and flex the box as well.  I’m either going to have to permanently weld the tongue to that bracket, or drill and tap a couple of additional holes through the tongue and bracket and add some graded bolts to take all the pivot out of the tongue.  I’m hashing the situation out as I write this and I’m pretty sure I’ll have the answer before next weekend.  If not, I may have to skip the four hour drive to Jefferson, NC for the Tear Jerker’s camping trip on the 20th.  I certainly don’t want to miss that, but I don’t want to find myself four hours from home, on the semi-deserted Skyline Parkway, with something broken that can’t be fixed on the road.  I have some great friends, but asking one of them to make a four hour drive, one way, to rescue my stupid, stranded butt would probably be pushing the envelope a little.

Das Ambiance. Mamba, anyone?

The Coleman canopy was definitely a worthwhile buy.  I read and re-read numerous reviews on the pros and cons of the various easy-up canopies on the market these days, then checked out quite a few before I decided on the Coleman.  One thing that really caught my eye was the fact that the fly is UV protected.  If you’ve ever seen a sun-rotted tarp, (the Big Top, home to Das Nook in my back yard is a great example), you’d agree.  As has always been my experience with anything Coleman, this canopy is a winner; and the fact that I found it on clearance over the winter just makes it that much sweeter.  The entire mechanism is really stout and it almost sets itself up.  You basically take the frame out of the wheeled, heavy duty, zippered storage case it came in, pull the frame open, drape the fly over the frame and extend the legs.  I’m the village idiot and I had no problems whatsoever getting it up in about five minutes.  If I can do it, anyone can.  Once you have it up, there are stout, Velcro-lined, tabs to secure the fly along the frame and there is even Velcro at the top on all four corner posts that mate with Velcro patches sewn into the fly itself.  For added wind protection, each corner has a tie-down rope extending from the flap on the fly.  For true anchoring, there are stake holes in each, heavy gauge, metal foot.  What made it even more versatile this weekend was when I attached a tarp across the frame with bungee cords to act as a shower/privacy curtain behind the galley doors and had a nice warm shower to test the efficacy of Das Shower.  I must admit that it felt a little strange, (yet somewhat exhilarating),  standing there naked with campers on either side of me, but there were no screams of horror, ladies fainting or villagers showing up with pitchforks to slay the monster so, apparently, the test was a complete success.  I’m still working on some of the intricacies to fine-tune the shower process but, for all intents and purposes, it was a worthwhile addition which, I’m certain, will get a lot of use in the years to come.

Das Schnaps lights

They don’t make beer bottle string lights……..at least not that I’ve found……..yet.  Martini glasses just kind of give the impression that we’re high brow nose-wavers; not the message I care to send, but these were the only lights ABC Distributing had on their clearance page so this is what I’ll have to light my area with until I can find some Beck’s or Newscastle lights.  Of course, one glimpse of me in my aviator’s helmet and goggles would dispel any thought of my being snooty or upper crust: and there’s always Lulu!  She just reeks of middle class: especially in the Walmart bikini bottom she was wearing this weekend.   You can take the mannequin out of Walmart, (Lulu literally was an underwear mannequin, or so I was told, in Walmart before they retired her), but you can’t take Walmart out of the mannequin.  Such is life.

Well, my friends, I have coolers to clean and smoke-scented laundry to wash, so that’s all for this week.

As a parting thought, I’d just like to mention again that there is no better stress reliever than a weekend in the woods.  With downsizing and fewer people to do even more work than before for, at least, forty hours per week; not to mention bills and the myriad of problems that everyone faces in their day to day existence, stress is like a visit from your mother-in-law:  It’s coming whether you want it to or not and it ain’t going to be pretty.  If you don’t find a way to alleviate that stress, it’ll eat away at your very core.  Borrow a tent from Uncle Claud.  Rent a camper for a weekend.  Whatever it takes, jump off life’s expressway for a weekend and find out how relaxing a weekend in the mountains or by the beach can be.  You won’t regret it.

Until next weekend, I wish you peace, good luck and every happiness.

Per la buona vita! (To the good life).

Brian

All new for 2011!

And, should you be so inclined, The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping has been completely revised for 2011 and is now available as an ebook!  Every ebook dealer from Sony’s iPhone store to Amazon and Barnes and Noble are carrying it.  However, we’re offering a 20% discount for all the loyal readers of Brian’s blog through Smashwords.com.   Just add the coupon code CM84R at checkout and you’ll receive the discount.  Picture this:  Wilderness 2011.  You just bought a new tent and figured it’d be a cinch to set up.  You got out of work late and arrived at the campground after dark.  Ominous dark clouds are looming over your campsite.  You unpack your tent only to realize that you haven’t got a clue about how it goes together.  What do you do?  Well, if you had a copy of this informative book on your phone, you could simply thumb through a few chapters and be roasting marshmallows within the hour.  Don’t have a copy?  Well, there’s a lot to be said for sleeping in the car.  Oh, you have bucket seats?   The kids will be voicing their displeasure over sleeping in the back seat…..all night long?   Save yourself the headache.  Order your copy today.

3 Comments

  1. Hey Brian, reading your blog is fun, glad you had a great weekend in Georgia- keep enjoying the good life! Tim

  2. Hey There. I discovered your blog the usage of msn.
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