Friday, September 19, 2014

Site Six: The Glamping (Part Three)

Part two is here

And so Pippii was ready.  We were ready.  I booked a campsite.  And that campsite was the eponymous Site Six.  Site six is, by far, the most beautiful and desirous campsite in the campground we favor. Since we've had a camper, we've been trying to reserve it to no avail. Camping enthusiasts apparently book and pay for the site and then can't be bothered to camp there. They just want everyone else who is actually camping to feel bad that the primo waterfront spot is both empty and unavailable. I wrote about Site Six here.    

 And, because we like to complicate our lives even further, we says to ourselves,

"Hey!  Why don't we take ALL THREE of our dogs?!"

Which brings us to...Ranger. 

I've written about all my dogs here, but the latest adoptee.  Well, almost all.  I've spared you the sad story of Gatsby the Hospice Dog who was with us but briefly approximately October, 2012 to August, 2013 when she met her maker. Believe me, you are glad.  Poor Gatsby, an adorable Wire Fox Terrier, abandoned in the wilds of Reidland most likely by an owner without the wherewithal (nerve?) to put the dying dog down, hobbled into our lives like everyone else does these days: via Facebook. A picture post by the local Vet who found the dog attracted a certain more sympathetic resident of this household to her cause.   

Wait. I'm telling the Gatsby story, aren't I?

Gatsby and her champion.  This is the sight that met me that first day in October.  "Can we adopt this dog?"  Would you say no?  NO, no you would not. But I wanted to. And I probably should have. Disclaimer: Gatsby had a singular ability to photograph as if she were a MUCH younger dog.  I assure you she is 115 years old and very nearly on her last leg here. Her less than stellar condition was much more apparent when viewing the dog as a whole.   

Anyway, the Gatsby story brings into sharp focus the fact that we are a house deeply divided when it comes to doggie adoption.  I, personally, am Team Give Me a Bouncing (preferably) Purebred Puppy and in the other corner is Team All Dogs Must Be Adopted From a Precarious Situation And Their Resulting Foibles Dealt With. I realize mine is probably the more politically incorrect position at this point. And, guess what? I don't care. I have hand raised two marvelous, exceptional, loving, loyal dogs from puppyhood. They trusted me implicitly in large part, I believe, due to our early association. The bond that results from rearing a dog from babyhood is nothing short of sublime. It has produced some of the best relationships of my life, and I have no regrets about the origins of these former and current family members (I speak here of the departed Isabelle and my precious Westie, Tallulah). I would, in fact, purchase a puppy again. Suck it.

On the other side of the fence is: Hey, want a dog? How about that one-eyed dog over there chained to a dumpster howling crazily at the moon? He's lonely! 

Okay, so maybe I exaggerate a tad.  But you understand my point.

I have written before of our other dog, Vance Shepherd, a Katrina rescue who has spent the majority of his life convinced we will murder him in his sleep. Which isn't to say I don't love him. Or that he doesn't have redeeming qualities. I do love him. But, Lord, there is an easier way if a person has a choice. And if you ask me we do collectively have a choice. (Somebody, please tell me we have a choice?)

Despite my philosophical opinions about adopting dogs and personal misgivings about the health of this dog in particular, Gatsby limped into our lives that Fall an adorable, if failing, addition. It was clear from the beginning that, in a previous life, she'd been To the Manor Born.  She considered car rides her royal due and assumed a queenly, if vaguely disinterested, pose when driven about. She appreciated but also obviously expected her treats. She immediately took to her new soft bed as something she'd never doubted would be provided ("Thank you, you may go now"). She blended with the other two dogs seamlessly forming an easily managed three-dog pack. 

All would have been well if not for, as previously mentioned, her extremely advanced age. The vet cautiously confirmed it at "probably twelve" which I considered generous. The dog was fifteen if she was a day. Plagued with cataracts and a terrible case of arthritis in her back and hips which made her entire rear half increasingly unstable, the dog had tooth problems that made us all cringe, and, oh, did I mention that Gatsby grew tumors as a hobby?

True story. 

All this did not, in the beginning, impinge upon Gatsby's sunny (if imperial) disposition.

We became a regular stop on our Vet's home visit rounds. Gatsby was placed on an arthritis med which gave her some relief and increased mobility. We traded some furniture (I'm not kidding) for a series of acupuncture treatments for the dog also aimed at easing her arthritis symptoms (and they did for a time!). We took to dressing her in baby tee-shirts to treat an itchy rash she'd developed. Her tumors were surgically removed. And, in response to this shitstorm of food, shelter, love, cash, furniture, attention, medicine and medical treatments--surprise--Gatsby did improve.     

But we all knew it was temporary. Of course it was. 

The winter hit Gatsby hard. The benefit curve from her medicine and treatments, fairly sharp in the beginning, began to level out. The cold was an insult that, as the months went by, ground down her tenuous early gains. It was a beautiful Spring morning when we began to have The Discussion. 

It looked like, maybe, it was time. 

As we were talking, the dogs assembled for their morning potty and the back door was duly opened for them.

What happened next was that Gatsby, clad in her K-Mart baby tee-shirt that graphically invited everyone to "Get Funky!" staggered out on the deck at the exact moment that a baby robin living in a nest tucked above the door decided to test its newly minted wings. The effect on Gatsby of spying the struggling baby bird as it floated to the ground was galvanizing. Her cloudy eyes cleared in an instant, the formerly feeble dog hurled herself toward the bird, leapt off the deck, and covered the last few steps between her and her prey at a full gallop, pouncing on and killing the bird in one swift, ferocious motion. By the time I got there in response, to screams of "WHAT JUST HAPPENED??" I found a near hysterical girlfriend, a dead bird, and a reinvigorated Gatsby, her mouth smeared with blood looking twice as perky I'd ever seen her. The murder had erased a good five years from her visage and her eyes sparkled and snapped with the renewed energy of a conquering Hun. 

The remarkable medicinal benefits (who knew?) of baby bird blood was a wave Gatsby would ride throughout that spring and early summer. But even that boost was not enough to allow her to outrun her significant deficiencies forever. By that August, she was gone.  

I could tell you the details, but then I'd cry and you'd cry and we'd all cry and it's bad enough as it is.

My point is (and I think I have one) is that by the time Ranger would become a possible new addition, I was, shall we say, less than enthusiastic.     

(To be continued.  Apparently forever. And in directions I myself do not anticipate.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Site Six: The Glamping (Part Two)

Part one is here.

By the next day, I'd lined up a trip to Mayfield to check out a promising pop-up for sale there and we'd received a flood of tips on other campers for sale in locations ranging from Mt. Vernon to Fulton. Our specifications were simple: Must have a/c.  Must be weather-tight. Must be [relatively] easy to crank (we were tired of nursing our hernias). We aren't, and may never be, prepared to move beyond tent camper as our primary "wilderness" residence. For one, we aren't able to camp enough for a huge (or, let's say, even huger) expenditure to make any economic sense at all, and secondly, I do not relish the thought of, as I'm fond of declaring, "Driving down the road with my own poop sloshing around in a tank behind me". What can I say? I'm a big fan of the public sewer system and leaving that sort of thing behind whenever possible.

As it turned out, the Mayfield camper was bought from under us five minutes before we arrived. 

We were not deterred.

In the end, we found Pippii crouching sadly in tall grass in a small yard in Lone Oak. She hadn't been camped in in a very long time and less discerning buyers may have overlooked her stellar qualities or mistaken her (very) slight ant infestation for a deal breaker. In fact, Pippii boasted a roomy bonus storage compartment in front. Safety features such as additional bracing for the four retractable metal columns that support, once cranked, the roof (we learned that day that, apparently, we were in constant real and imminent danger of being pancaked in Pippa without these, especially in light of the retrofitted a/c unit on her roof, the main cause of our twin cranking hernias). Stabilizing feet similar those of a lunar lander raised and lowered with the effortless turn of a tiny jack--this as opposed to Pippa's obstinate rusty feet which often had to be kicked, beaten and cursed into place. 

Finally, we put Pippii to the ultimate test: we each cranked her.  She was awarded a five out of ten hernia points for ease of cranking up (Pippa was a fifteen) and two out of ten hernia points for ease of the down crank (Pippa was a nine). Couple that with her age, a full decade younger than Pippa, and Pippii was, most definitely, THE ONE.

After playing the Kentucky game (a social process that starts with "who's your mama/who's your daddy" and ends when each party identifies a mutual acquaintance) with Pippii's current owner, he agreed to come off the asking price slightly, slapped his knee, and invited us to come on down to the Legion for a beer with him just any old time.  

We sealed the deal with hugs all around.  

Our new camper secured, we turned our attention to the sad task of retrieving the now completely obsolete Pippa who is at this point, recall, still marginally set up at the lake at the campsite where we'd abandoned her to search for her replacement a few days before. It was a sad and beautiful Spring day when we cranked her mildewed canvas down for the last time. The loons called to each other across the lake. Wild monkeys screamed in the distance. We did not speak of Pippii as we hitched Pippa to the truck for the last time and drove the 40 miles home.  

Pippa had been an effective, if difficult, camper while she lasted. And, in fact, she changed hands again. I'm told Pippa is currently serving out her declining years as a makeshift hunting shelter somewhere in the wilds of Ballard County.  

Or somethinglikethat.

Maybe it was my imagination, but Pippii looked a bit perked up when we arrived to take her home. Now cleared of her former owner's gear, she was lighter, brighter and seemingly eager to move on. She spent some time set up in the driveway while we banished the ants and replaced a portion of the floor that we'd learned--too late to use as a bargaining chip--was spongy. Pippii basked in the glow of our attention. To our delight, we discovered the custom banquette cushions we'd salvaged from Pippa fit perfectly at Pippii's table. We transferred our gear which more than fit in Pippii's more roomy interior; we were able to eliminate a large chuck box we'd been lugging around for years. A small decoupage project was completed on Pippii's removable outdoor shelf, a small homage to Pippa's larger "Great Gatsby" table project.

Finally, Pippii stood ready for her inaugural camping trip.  

Unfortunately, we would not be able to get away for another four months.

(To be continued...)     

Monday, September 15, 2014

Site Six: The Glamping (Part One)

When last we spoke of my camping adventures, I wrote of a lovely trip to Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee, taken--could it really be?-- two years ago in our erstwhile pop-up, "Pippa".  

Much has changed since then.  After the Fall Creek Falls trip, we would enjoy one more extended trip in Pippa to Natural Bridge State Park seven months later in May of 2013.  It was fun, stuff happened, I zip-lined across Red River Gorge, but unbeknownst to us at the time, the most important detail of that trip would only reveal itself in hindsight.  Because on that trip it rained.  And it rained.  Usually at night, but, significantly, it rained several nights in a row.  At the time, all it meant to us was a few pre-bed time hours each night watching "House of Cards" on the laptop and eating Cheetos instead of taking in the night air outside the camper.  Pippa, her seams having been sprayed and reinforced with sealant, was quite weather proof and the sound of rain on the sturdy canvas only added to the fine sleeping weather that damp, cool central Kentucky spring.  

When it came time to return home, we cranked down the top with the usual difficulty--Pippa being an ancient and contrary contraption, this often involved cussing and sitting on the thing in various spots as one would a bulging suitcase in order to get the top to at least somewhat successfully meet and properly latch to the bottom.  We drove the five hours home and backed Pippa into place without incident in the driveway where she was to sit, covered and untouched, for almost exactly one year.  My desire to plow  through school at an accelerated rate meant that I would not take off a semester or even a Christmas break from that time until I would finish in May of this year.  

And so it was with great anticipation in May that we again (finally!) booked a spot at LBL, the place we consider our camping "home base".  It would be our first trip in a year and we were eager to get back to the business of battling the elements while enjoying a constant internet connection and the glowing convenience of Jeff & Emily's IGA less than a quarter of a mile away.  

Our joy was short lived, however.  We had strained only half our guts out over the crank before noticing Pippa was emitting a less than fresh scent from her interior. A full dual hernia inducing crank revealed the whole horrible truth:  Pippa had developed a chronic and irreversible case of mildew.  Likely due to lingering (if only slight) dampness from the rain a year before and the extremely long period of compression without airing.  The canvas was perhaps a fourth covered in the dark creeping mold and in the worst spots, was peppered with small holes.  The smell was intolerable.

All was lost.

Dejected, we left Pippa in her partially set up state, and drove home.  Like a woman obsessed I pushed back against my feelings of sadness and loss by launching an immediate internet scouring search for a replacement.  I checked local for sale listings and dickered with a dealership that sold pop-ups as far away as Indianapolis.  We put the word out to all our friends:  FOR GOD'S SAKE WE NEED A POP-UP CAMPER.    

And, before you go pointing out the obvious, let me just say that on the face of it, it might not make too much sense for a woman who hasn't camped in a year to be searching for a new pop-up life her life depended on it.  I get that.  But here's the thing about having a pop-up in one's driveway:  there IS a pop-up in your driveway.  The possibility of a camping adventure lives and breathes, right outside your front door, every day, just steps away.  Those cold, crappy depressing Monday mornings backing out of your driveway can be interrupted, if only for a moment, by the seductive lure of the pop-up.  A brief ray of outdoorsy sunshine suddenly beamed into your work week.  It whispers:  really, if you wanted to, you could just hitch up and GO.  Of course, you can't and you won't, but the thing is... you could.

Unless, of course, you don't have a camper.  

A situation that I was determined would be rectified.  And quickly.       

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Five Post Challenge (#1)

I'm finished. 

Finished with school, temporarily finished with work, finished with all those pesky things that demanded time away from this, the thing I used to like to do most in the world. 

Well, almost most in the world.

Since last we spoke I've been on camping trips, had a big birthday, had travel adventures, written a thousand papers, adopted (another) dog, made friends, lost friends, been happy, sad, surprised, discouraged and overjoyed.

I am riddled with anxiety and hope in almost equal parts. 

In short I've continued to marvel at the big jokey metaphor that is life and shared none of it here.

And that, my friends, isn't going to work for me anymore.

For a while I thought I couldn't access this site again, thanks to Google's takeover of Blogger and additional swipe at taking over the interwebs by chaining everything together and forcing one to log into absolutely everything with only one email and only one password. I announced as much over coffee (OH MY GOD Y'ALL, I ALSO BECAME A COFFEE DRINKER ON TOP OF EVERYTHING ELSE) at Etcetera coffee shop to my friend, Nikki May:

I can't get into my blog.

What do you mean you can't get into your blog?

Because, you know, Google and stuff.  


[I've meant to get back to this little project all along. Of course I have!  However, I've also recently decided that after, oh, a mere nine years, the site needs a redesign.  Blog pillows must be fluffed, new paint colors chosen, furniture rearranged, tchotchkes slid one inch to the left, irrelevant and unfashionable pieces discarded.]  

(Brightening suddenly)
You should design me a new blog!

(Another sigh; this time that of the weary, tortured, perpetually annoyed web designer.)
Five blog posts.


Write five blog posts.  And I'll design a new blog.

Seems extreme.

I can migrate all your old stuff into the new blog.

She grinned evilly. 

Of course, that's the kicker.  All my old stuff?  Just hanging around with my potential new stuff?  All in one place?  With a shiny new cover?  


I sped home.  Fired up the laptop.  Unsheathed my internet machete.  Hacked my way through Amazon, Facebook, online spades.  Ruthlessly chopped down the other forty-seven open windows open on my desktop.  I turned off "Property Brothers".  (Sorry Jonathan, it just wasn't meant to be.)  I turned off "Say Yes to the Dress" (Step away from the Pnina).  I slogged through swamps of online applications and half completed forms, online banking. I swiped away the Joan Didion.  Finally, I dove into Google. 

By God, I'd blast my way in if I had to.


I took a deep breath.  Entered my old email address, my old password.

HEY!  How YOU doin'?!

(Four to go.)