Monday, July 16, 2012

Camping in Colorado and My Midsummer Review

Reading: Since last posting 150 years ago (okay, it's only been just over a month but it seems like longer), I started and finished The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz, and No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels by Jay Dobyns.  3 very different books and I enjoyed them all, though for different reasons.  Right now I don't feel like blogging about books, though, so you will need to stay tuned for my future posts on those.

Eating: Summer is fully upon us.  Here in the upper midwest, we are setting records for high temps and have been sweating with high humidity as well for what seems like months, though I suppose in reality it has only been about 3 weeks.  Summertime in general and heat in particular make me think about eating differently.  First, we have abundant fresh produce this time of the year (this is further enhanced at our house because of our weekly CSA (community-supported agriculture) share delivery, and also because of our vegetable garden.  Second, we tend to avoid turning on the oven and do a lot more grilling.  Third, the lure of soups, stews and casseroles (hotdishes for you Minnesotans!) is not as strong as the temptation of salads - both green and pasta.  I will be posting some summer food recipes, thoughts and suggestions in the upcoming weeks - stay tuned for that as well.

Weeding: Wow.  Weeds grow really, really well in this weather.  Apparently thistles, crabgrass and clover are very drought resistant and heat tolerant.  Cleaning up the flower and veggie beds - deadheading, weeding, cutting back - is even more work when it is 95 degrees with 95% humidity.  We are also working on the stump garden because we now have a plan drawn up!  A friend who is a long-time gardener and awesome planner drew up a layout for the "stump garden" using our input.  There are plans for walkways in and out, a fire bowl and seating area, privacy from the street and incorporating the colors and plants we own or would like to own.  We hope to also add some sort of water feature.  There will be a lovely view from my office window and should be blooms and color for multiple seasons.  Watch for pictures as this project progresses.  Right now, the sweaty job of removing turf and excess soil is in progress.

Travel: Maybe I could call this section "retreating" or something.  For now, it will be just "travel".  Last month we took a driving trip to Colorado for a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park.  After the first 2 days, I was ready to turn around and come home, but it improved significantly after that, so I was glad we continued.  We drove the first night to my mom's in southwest MN (there was a delay of our departure that night because work, and other circumstances out of our control) then from there proceeded south through Iowa - completely benign and uneventful, as you would expect Iowa to be.  We took a little off freeway detour to see the Blue Bunny ice cream factory in LeMars, IA, but did not get any ice cream.  We stopped at a sleepy little town in Nebraska for lunch - Lyons (I pronounced it Lee-own' the way it is in French - probably not how they say it in NE though), and continued on our way.  That afternoon is when the trouble began... 5 miles out of Clarks, NE, the tire pressure monitoring system started to tell E that the left rear tire was getting low.  It should be at about 31 and it was at 28.  By the time we stopped in Clarks at the gas station, it was down to 16 and when we checked again after getting gas, it was 2.  So we unpacked the trunk (which was stuffed to the top with camping gear) and changed the tire to the "compact spare" aka donut.  Someone stopped by then to tell us there was a service station where we could get it fixed, but alas!  It was 4pm on Saturday and it was closed.  We discovered our spare allows us to drive up to 65mph for up to 3000 miles so we continued on the interstate, nearly getting run over by every big truck on the road.  After a failed attempt to find a tire repair place in Grand Island, the only city of good size in the middle of that blessed state, we drove on to Ogalalla where we had a room booked for that night.  After a late dinner at Denny's, a fitful night's sleep, and waffles for breakfast, we drove on through the high plains to the suburb of Henderson, just outside Denver.  This is where we were picking up the wee little camper we were purchasing, direct from the "factory".  Marty, the man who built the trailer, was quite helpful - he determined our hitch was a good 5 inches too low for the trailer but set about building us a new one.  He also directed us to where we could get our tire repaired. I won't go into more detail about the next 6 hours of our time outside Denver other than to say it took a long time but only a little money to repair the tire and get it on the car, Olive Garden tastes pretty darn good when you are hungry, 107 degrees doesn't feel so hot when it is a dry heat, and our hitch is now tall enough to haul the trailer.  We pulled out just in time for it to start raining.  Hard.  But eventually it stopped. We got into Rocky Mountain National Park and to our campsite around 10pm but happily did not have to set up a tent in the dark like we usually do.  With the help of a friendly neighbor camper, we got our trailer set up, blocked and chocked, the airbed inflated and were in bed not too long after.  It was a long 2 first days of the trip but we were happy campers after that.  We relaxed in the campground, drove up to 11,000 feet and got out of breath walking across the parking lot, saw beautiful mountains, alpine lakes, and a herd of elk, hiked several miles and saw more majestic mountains, pristine lakes, colorful flowers and funny little ground squirrels, cooked on a little campstove (no campfire due to the extremely dry conditions), and slept in our compact hard-sided tent on wheels.  We came home by way of hot dry Wyoming, to the surprisingly beautiful Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota where we spent one night in a pine filled campground.  We had a long day's drive across boring South Dakota (truthfully, other than the Badlands and Black Hills, SD is very boring.  Sorry SoDak'ers.) then spent the evening at with my sister and brother-in-law at the campground where they have their (not-small) camper parked for the season.  So much fun to see them!  Hard to get used to the humidity and mosquitoes, though, after having been in hot, dry, wildfire land.  Then we were home.  I will post pictures sometime, in case you have not already seen them on Facebook.  I especially need to post one of the little camper - we do so enjoy it!  I named it Rudy.  The style of camper is called the Roughneck, so Rudy the Roughneck it was.  He seems to enjoy being hauled around by Sadie the Saturn.  They look pretty good together too.

Well, I am off to make dinner now.  As I said before, stay tuned for my reviews of those 3 books, for summer food thoughts and ideas, for pictures of progress on the stump garden and for pictures of the camper and Colorado trip.

Until we eat, read, weed or retreat again,
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