Road Trip(s)!

Well! We have been busy! After camping with Darling Daughter and partner, we were home for a week or so, and then back on the road again for Labor Day weekend (the first weekend in September).

I worked Friday, but we’d been warned we had to make it to Illinois to help a friend of ours celebrate his retirement from United Airlines. He’s been a captain flying mostly overseas for many years, but hitting 65 meant leaving that job behind.

He and his wife chose to celebrate with a fly-in pig roast at their grass strip — the same place our group congregates before heading to Oshkosh each year.

Unfortunately, it became clear on Friday morning that the weather in Illinois was not going to be conducive to visual flight rules flying on Saturday. And since The Engineer is not instrument flight rules current, this meant a road trip.

We left bright and early Saturday morning after throwing our camping gear in the van on Friday night. I’m embarassed to admit that since we knew this trip was coming, we’ve left it in our foyer since the last camp trip (with Darling Daughter and Partner).

It was a long drive (about seven or so hours), but we had all day and made stops as needed for meals and to stretch our legs, arriving in plenty of time for the evening’s festivities.

And although I loved seeing many of our friends from around the country at the party, I have to admit I enjoyed the day after more. It seems the older I get, the less I enjoy being part of a crowd for more than an hour or two.

So a Sunday hanging around the hangar chatting to whoever was around was just fine with me.

It really was wonderful to be able to visit with friends we only see once in a while.

I also enjoyed being able to sleep in before going for a late breakfast on Monday, and then packing up for our trip home.

We took the backroads instead of the freeway, stopping to spend a night in Marion, Indiana where we used up some of The Enginner’s many Holiday Inn points for a room, and went out for a Mexican meal.

Illinois and Indiana is farm country — mostly corn and beans — and the country roads are mostly narrow and straight.

The roads are so straight, in fact, I felt compelled to take a picture when we made a turn!

After arriving home Tuesday evening, we got up to a day of preparing for our camping trip on Thursday.

First, I visited my mom, who is once again in lockdown at her nursing home. They have had four staff cases of COVID (most, if not all, of unvaccinated people) and one resident who tested positive after she exhibited symptoms.

Fortunately, none of the other residents have tested positive (so far), but this means Mom is spending most of her time in her room again, with no group activities.

How long will this go on, and why has protecting ourselves and others from illness become a political football?

And that’s all I’m saying on that subject.

In addition to seeing Mom, it was time to put in our second strip of Formic Pro in our three hives, so we did that too.

Also, we had to go flying.

I know …. such a shame, but someone has to do it.:-)

We decided to fly for dinner to a rural strip with a restaurant. We often visit there for breakfast, and their evening meals proved to be as filling (and cheap) as their breakfasts.

Plus, it was so nice to see trees again after all the corn and bean fields!

The sunset was magnificent!

Thursday, it was off to the campground, which proved to be a welcome haven from our busy month.

We set up our big tent in a beautiful spot in the shade of several large pines at the end of one of the roads. I say “big tent” to differentiate it from the smaller one we take to Oshkosh. They are identical except for size, with the little one being a four-person, much more suitable for loading in the plane, when weight is a concern.

The “big tent” is an eight-person, and it’s huge! The Engineer can stand in it, and he’s 6’3″. I got it for a ridiculously low price on Craig’s List, and we’ve been referring to it as the “Taj Mahal.” But in Illinois, a friend of ours called it the “Garage Mahal,” a name I think will stick.

Here it is in all its glory.

I also recently invested in a double pie-maker. We had a small single one, but I came across a book with all sorts of delicious sounding recipes to make in a pie maker, so I decided to splash out on a bigger one too.

Here are the samosas we made on Thursday night in our new cookware. I’m very proud I managed to not burn them.

We used one of those cans of croissant dough for the first ones (and then I made a chocolate croissant with the small bit of leftover dough). The Engineer also used the little round pie iron to make another samosa using the filling in plain, old white bread. (Well, it wasn’t actually plain, old white bread. It was the rather expensive white bread I buy because it actually has flavor, nutrition, and texture, but that’s sort of beside the point.)

Anyway, The Engineer said the second samosa was as good, possibly better, than the first.

The next morning, I once again used our Kelly Kettle to make tea. I know, I know — I go on about this piece of equipment, but it’s so fast compared to making tea on our old camp stove.

So I’ve dressed up the picture with a shot of the pine cones we used for kindling, honey from our bees, the tea pot and cosy I pack with our gear, and the freebie fan I got from Seltzerland and used to create a draft for the little fire.

Friday, we rented a canoe, and discovered Grumman — the maker of F-4 Wildcats and F-6 Hellcats (World War II combat planes) also made canoes.

Of course it was The Engineer who made the connection between the name on the boat and the aircraft-style rivets.

View of Findley Lake from a Grumman canoe

When we stopped for lunch, The Engineer discovered this.

He’s very observant, that boy.

I, on the other hand, am in charge of research, and all I could find (with a very quick search online) was that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Water does some kind of sediment survey using these markers.

Enlightening, that bit of information is, isn’t it?

The canoeing made us thirsty, and we retired to a local(ish) brewery. The place seems to be in the middle of nowhere, or at least a lot of farmland, but it was filling up when we left, so people seem to be finding it.

I found Muffleheads Brewery online (how else?), and we both found it delightful.

Here’s a view from the patio (before the groups of people began to show up). The owners have clearly spent a lot of money to make their brewery dream come true because the place was full of comfy seats and fire pits by which to enjoy your beverage.

The beer was good too.

If you’ve never heard the term “mufflehead,” it refers to an mosquito-like insect that invades western Ohio in early summer. They don’t bite, but appear in such great numbers as to be more than a little annoying.

Now they have a brewery named after them. Go figure.

Dinner that evening was our household specialty, which consists of chopping up some kind of sausage and throwing it in a pan or wrapping it in foil with potatoes, carrots, onions, and any other vegetables we happen to have on hand, along with a few dabs of butter. We put it in the fire and let it cook until done.

This time, the potatoes came out a little charred, but thankfully, my husband claims to prefer them that way.

On Saturday, we met our friend MJ at the local fairgrounds for the LCBA End of Summer Classic. Along with the educational sessions on bees, this beekeeper group had organized a Corvette Cruise-In, a Classic Car and Bike Cruise-In, Amish buggy rides, fair food booths, door prizes, vendors, and a variety of other activities.

We concentrated mostly on the bee presentations, though I did manage to find time to spend probably more than I should have on raffle tickets. I can’t feel too guilty though; the money goes to the organization, and they present several of these events a year.

Also, I won a basket, though I’ve not yet had time to see exactly what’s in it.

After the Summer Classic, we all drove back to the park for the “Friends of Findley State Park Tasting in the Woods,” which I’d seen on the park website a few days before.

I’ll admit Ohio hasn’t had a history of producing great wines, but when an opportunity arises to drink wine and eat pizza in a beautiful setting while supporting a worthy endeavor, you take it. Travel magic, right?

The people were friendly, and the three of us (The Engineer, MJ, and I) each found several wines we liked.

Plus, pizza.

I should have taken a picture of the two delicious pies we consumed, but we scarfed them down so fast there wasn’t time.

Eventually MJ had to make her way home, and The Engineer and I meandered our way back to the campsite for one last campfire.

Since it was probably our last camping trip of the season, and thus, our last camping trip fire, I made a cherry pie to celebrate.

The next morning, after one last Kelly Kettle cuppa, we went for a short dam hike. (Sorry. I couldn’t stop myself from phrasing it that way.)

A few photos of wildflowers because they looked pretty, and soon after that, we were packed up and on our way home.

Slugabed

From Merriam-Webster:

Definition of slugabed

a person who stays in bed after the usual or proper time to get upbroadlySLUGGARD

Or, in my case:

Slug I found in my bed (sleeping bag) this morning

Okay, if you’re being literal, it wasn’t in my bed, it was on my bed, but that’s just semantics when you get up to use the facilities and on the walk there, you find yourself wondering what the slimy, sticky streak is on your hand.

Ugh.

I must have still been half-asleep this morning because by the time I realized the mucusy substance was mucus which came from my bedfellow, I just opened the tent zipper and flung it outside.

Normally, I’m pretty sure there would have been some shrieking, possibly swearing, and maybe even a gag reflex.

Yes, we’ve been camping again. And yes, the second and third night and most of the third day were damp.

Still, we had a good trip.

We canoed on Tuesday, and this reprobate, whom you know as “The Engineer,” was in charge of steering. I took this photo over my shoulder without focusing and am quite pleased with the result (even though some of my wild camp hair made it into the frame). He looks like a badass, doesn’t he?

As you can see, it was a great day to be on the river, warm but not too hot, and not many people about because it was a Tuesday.

I did notice there are many more trailers parked on the banks than I remember from the last time I canoed there. But, heck, it’s only been about thirty years, why would things have changed?

We also went for a drink and meal at a local bistro. What a treat after so many months being unable to do so! It was such a treat, in fact, that I somehow managed to capture the experience without even realizing it. How clever of my subconscious to catch the name of the bistro in the corner of the photo as well as the sparkling clarity of the drink.

Also, we had some great campfires, and cooked solely over those fires and our Kelly Kettle. This was mostly because that’s how we like to do things, but partly because the one time we tried to use our little burner, it wouldn’t work properly.

So, our breakfast fajitas were made using the kettle too. If you wonder how that works, here’s a link to a picture. And once the kettle boiled for tea, we actually used the little metal apparatus directly over the fire base to hold the pan while I finished scrambling the eggs.

To make the fajitas, I just sauteed chopped onions, sweet peppers, and a jalapeño. Then I beat a couple of eggs with some water and made a scramble with the vegetables. Serve over a tortilla with grated cheese, some cilantro, and salsa (ours was my home-canned zucchini salsa).

Serve with freshly made hot tea, and eat sitting in your favorite folding chair. Delicious!

It can be a little challenging to get the fire started in a volcano kettle, but we’ve actually found ours easier to use, more versatile, and faster to cook with than our stove.

I love the way the fire illuminates the ODNR (Ohio Department of Natural Resources) letters.

We also made jambalaya, cooking it between rain showers.

Yes, that’s our Lodge Dutch Oven being put to use again!

This was based on a recipe from Leanne Brown’s Good and Cheap.

Again, you begin with sauteed vegetables — peppers, a jalapeño (Leanne called for a chile, but I had jalapeños), celery, and onions. Once they’re softened, you toss in a small can of diced tomatoes (or fresh) and a spice mix of thyme, cayenne, bay leaves, garlic powder, paprika, and oregano. I added a little extra garlic powder because I didn’t sauté any fresh with the other veggies. For convenience, I mixed the spices at home. Once the tomatoes cook down a little you add stock, Worcestershire sauce, and rice, and cook until the rice is soft. If you like, you can add other ingredients — Leanne suggests fried sausage, shrimp, leftover meat or beans — fifteen minutes after the stock. Since we were camping, I mixed stock base and Worcestershire before leaving home, storing it in our cooler, and mixing with water to make stock.

We had chorizo in the freezer, so I pre-fried that, as well, and used it for an add-in.

It was a little on the spicy side, but as The Engineer pointed out, it’s good to have something hot when you’re eating in a tent on a wet night.

Nonetheless, if I make it with chorizo again, I’ll cut back on the cayenne or maybe leave out the jalapeño. I’ll definitely make the basic recipe again, at home and at camp. Along with being Good and Cheap, it’s also easy and was simple to adjust to campside cooking.

And seriously, check out that cookbook. It’s a good one.

The mist over the river from the rain last night was like having a cloud come right down to the water’s surface, very atmospheric and moody. I took photos as the night drew in.

It was pouring this morning (hence, the slugabed), but The Engineer still managed to follow through on his promise to fire up the kettle and have a turn at making a welcome cup of morning tea.

Eventually the rain cleared momentarily, and we packed up our damp gear and took the scenic route home.

We really do live in a beautiful state.

Supposedly some folks on the East and West coasts consider Ohio a part of “flyover country.”

Because of this prejudice, our plentiful bike paths, incredible state and local parks (along with our national one), and the sheer loveliness of the countryside remain mostly uncrowded by outsiders.

And that’s just fine by me.

Camping Without Air Conditioning and Appliances

This post has its roots in a review of a campground.

You see, I’m the cautious type and like to know something about where we are considering putting down (tent) stakes for a few nights, so I looked at reviews online before making reservations for our most recent expedition.

Most were positive, extolling the privacy of the sites, the beautiful setting, and the plentiful recreational opportunities in the area.

However, the most recent review, posted that very day, was negative to the extreme, which I found a bit worrying … until I read it.

One of the reviewer’s main complaints were the fact there were no full hookups for RVs. I’ve just checked on the reservation form, and yes, it does give “full hookup” as an option, but when you look at the specific site (which comes up when you pick a date and spot), the spots for “Sewer hookup” and “Water hookup” are blank, which I would take to mean these services are not on offer.

Even worse (in the reviewer’s opinion), the electric power was such that campers are unable to use any appliances while running the air conditioning.

There were also no dumpsters or trash bins near the campsites, something I would take as a positive rather than negative due to smells and yellow jackets.

And apparently there were (gasp!) bugs in the shower, both dead and alive.

I’ll admit sharing the shower with six-legged creatures is not my favorite part of camping, but it’s something I’ve come to accept as part of the back-to-nature experience.

The last complaint concerned the water — apparently smelly and disgusting.

When I was young, my family camped quite a bit, and I’ve experienced enough bad water to take this seriously enough to haul some from home in case the reviewer wasn’t exaggerating.

Readers, I am not above enjoying modern comforts, nor do I begrudge others doing the same. It was hot enough the first few days of our trip that I’d have gladly availed myself of A/C if we had it. Also, I can understand someone wanting to use a crockpot or other convenience to make cooking chores easier.

But, if that’s the type of camping you require, perhaps it would be wise to ascertain that it’s available before setting out.

Please don’t think I’m criticizing anyone for their choices. It’s okay if you want air conditioning and to use your appliances. Just don’t criticize campgrounds for not providing the power you need when they’ve clearly stated they don’t.

Or maybe just check into a hotel. That’s the choice I make (and The Engineer wisely follows) when I’m not up for insects in my shower and having to walk a quarter mile to use the toilet.

I think there are two things people call “camping.” One involves a tent or small camper; the other uses massive trailer that requires a truck to tow the behemoth and/or another vehicle being towed.

When I talk about “camping,” I mean the former, but here in the US, when most people discuss camping, they generally mean the latter, something I call RVing.

Both activities involve traveling and setting up “camp,” but diverge widely from there, so much so that I find myself asking, “At what point does it become less like camping, and more like taking your home with you?”

That’s what some people — mostly retirees — do. They sell their home, buy a gargantuan trailer, and travel the country.

To this, I say, “More power to you!” If you’ve reached the age of retirement, you certainly deserve a few comforts.

The people I’ve known who made this choice don’t call it “camping” either; they call it RVing.

Okay. I’m climbing down from my soapbox now because I want you to know we had a great time.

Yes, there were a few bugs in the shower — a couple of small Daddy Long Legs and a cricket.

No, the water didn’t stink.

Yes, we had electricity, but we didn’t use it.

And, yes, the garbage bins were in a central place, away from most the sites.

You know what? It was a beautiful campground, with large private spaces and clean restrooms.

IMG_3879
This is our new (to us) tent. It’s an 8-person Cabela’s Alaskan Guide and was a bit of an extravagance since we’d only replaced our old 4-person version with a new one a few years ago. I saw it on CraigsList, and the temptation of being able to stand inside our tent was just too great.

Plus, it was a deal and almost new.

We’re big fans of dome-style tents because we’ve had several, and they’ve held up in storms that took down most other nearby tents.

I was also eager to use our new (to us) Kelly Kettle  which I’d recently bought on eBay. Naturally, we’d experimented with it in the backyard, but now, we’d be using it for the purpose for which it had been purchased. After years of pumping our little single burner camp stove for what seemed like hours, we would finally have hot water for tea in five minutes.

IMG_3876

Kelly Kettles (and their competitors, Ghillie Kettles) are sometimes called “Volcano Kettles” because the devices “consist of a water jacket surrounding a fire chamber which creates an upward chimney draft ensuring efficient and rapid boiling even in windy or wet weather.”  (Description care of Wikipedia. Click through if you want more info.)

They’re more common in England, and I’m explaining them here because they are brilliant — a simple design that works. And you can fuel them with almost anything, although we cheated a little and brought sticks and leaves from home.

I also took a hint from a YouTube video and lit the sticks with cotton balls rubbed with Vaseline.

Yes, The Engineer and I actually spent an evening watching Kelly Kettle videos on YouTube.

I know. We’re weird.

The other important thing is to point the bottom hole into the wind. In fact, it seems like the windier it was, the better the flame.

IMG_3878I was so excited, I brought one of my teapots so we could have proper tea each morning.

As an added bonus, I soon realized the kettle is also great for heating water for dishes.

One of my best buys ever. Seriously.

And while I’m sounding like a camping nut and bit of a spendthrift, let me tell you about my recently acquired Lodge Camp Dutch Oven.

It’s the smallest one, just big enough for the two of us, and I’ve been experimenting with cooking a variety of dishes on the fire. (Go here for details on previous meals, though I managed to erase the pictures on that post. :-%)IMG_3877

On Tuesday, we had burgers and local corn. We were going to have green beans with garlic and onions (all from our CSA share), but left the pot on the fire for too long. The beans were charred twigs with small other small black bits that had been onion and garlic. I’m not exaggerating, and I’m sorry for not taking a picture so you could see.

Wednesday, I licked my wounds and returned to an old favorite we’ve made for years called “Sausages and Other Stuff.” The recipe is sausage (usually bratwurst, but could be Italian or any other kind), and the “other stuff” usually includes potatoes, onions, carrots, a bit of butter, and whatever other vegetables we have on hand. In this case, it was zucchini and garlic. We used to make these by wrapping it all up in multiple layers of heavy-duty foil, but this time we used the Dutch oven. It was delicious.

On Thursday, I attempted pizza. IMG_3859
I redeemed myself because it was perfect! I made the dough at home using author Barbara Kingsolver’s excellent “Friday Night Pizza” dough recipe from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, topped with canned sauce, fresh basil, onions, green peppers, olives, pepperoni, and Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.

Maybe I only remember to take pictures of my triumphs?

As I mentioned, it was hot and humid the first few days (upper 80s and felt like 100% humidity), so naturally that was when we decided to cycle. We never found the actual rail-trail we were looking for, riding instead on a connector trail but never connecting. Instead, we did a few miles and had a nice picnic instead.

Since we were using the bikes to get to and from the shower and took another short ride on our way home, we did manage to get in about 20 miles total.

The day we chose to kayak was cloudier and a little windy. IMG_3843IMG_3844
The park was a marsh with abundant plant life, which meant some shallow paddling in places, but it was beautiful and peaceful, with Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, some diving water birds, and many dragon flies. IMG_3851
The evening was lovely, cooler and breezy, a perfect night to sit outside, which is what we did, eating our pizza and chatting.

Some new “campers” had pulled in next door while we were gone, leaving their air conditioning running while they went somewhere because there were no people and no vehicle in sight. On their return, they apparently disappeared into the camper.

We never did see them, though they eventually turned off the A/C.

Sigh.

Yesterday, we packed up, returned to the marsh for our second little bike ride, stopped at another nature preserve for a picnic lunch, and met some more dragonflies. IMG_3865IMG_3864
On the way home, we stopped so I could get locally made ice cream.

It was delicious, a fitting way to end to a wonderful trip.