Category Archives: Camping

The Mascot

When the Captain and I were on one of our trips to Baja California, we stopped to do some shopping in Ensenada. I found a puppet-style doll that I couldn’t live without. She was the Mexican version of Annie Oakley. What made me even happier, was buying the doll that had to be her partner.  He is pictured in the photo below Annie.

The store proprietor told me that this doll represents the hen-pecked husband, the Honeydew man (Honey, do this and Honey, do that), but in Spanish they called this fellow a “mandelon,”  because he is ordered about. What woman would not want a mandelon to do things for her? I had to have this doll!

In my novel Orion’s Gift,  Sylvia is all alone in the world and has more than her share of problems. She really needs someone, so I gave her a mascot to lend her strength. Below is a short excerpt from Orion’s Gift, telling about how Sylvia came to adopt Annie.

Excerpt:

In one shop, handmade puppets on strings hung from the ceiling. Each doll had a unique character and, like orphans hoping to be adopted, seemed to call, “Take me with you.” I fell in love with a Mexican Annie Oakley. She held a mini six-gun in each hand and radiated confidence and self-reliance. I paid for her and happily carried her home to my van. I rigged up a spot on the curtain rod behind the seat for Annie to watch over me at night. She’d be my mascot, a reminder that I was strong and could take care of myself.

If you would like to read about Sylvia, you can purchase the e-book for less than the price of a hamburger. Just click on the link to amazon.com.

Click here:  amazon.com

Please help spread the word about Annie the mascot and the book she lives in by re-tweeting this post.

Gourmet Dining

This is a post from several years ago. It’s a bit long, but I hope you can find the time to read about this fiasco. I changed the names, but everything else is absolutely true.

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“This was a good idea of yours, George,” Carmen said. “After two weeks of camp food, I think we’re all ready for a gourmet meal.” The six friends who congregated in the entrance of the small town’s only hotel restaurant, nodded in agreement.

George craned his neck to look into the dining room. “No hostess. I guess we just go ahead.” He rushed in to claim the only available table.

Carmen looked around for a waitress. Still no one in sight to say, “Hang on a minute and we’ll clean the table for you first,” so the campers settled into their places and stared at the mess left behind by the previous diners. Bits of mashed potato and blobs of ketchup, the pepper shaker lying on its side, and leftover cutlery littered the table.

“How’re y’all doin’?” The waitress—Jackie, according to her name tag—was a friendly young woman wearing a uniform one size too small. She shoved the remaining cutlery to the center of the table and attacked the food dribbles with a stained, sour-smelling cloth. She wiped the table, leaving behind little beads of gray dishrag juice. Before it was dry she slid a water glass in front of each of them, rim side down.

Carmen glanced at her husband, Bill, and muttered, “No water for me today.”

Jackie reset the table using the cutlery from the heap in the center. No place mats. Carmen surreptitiously pushed the used pieces aside while the waitress finished the settings across from her. She noticed that Bill, George, and Millie did the same. “Could we please have new forks and knives?”

“Hnnf! Sure! No sweat.” She shrugged and turned to get more cutlery from a side counter.

“Anybody feel like a glass of wine?” George asked.

Five voices eagerly agreed. “Good idea.”

Jackie brought a tray of wineglasses already filled. Again, the six friends exchanged looks. Whatever happened to pouring the wine at the table?  Carmen sighed and wiped the rim of her glass with a napkin. The others followed her lead.

The glasses were filled to within a half inch of the top. No way you could swirl the wine or toast with your neighbour without spilling.

“I filled yer glasses right up.” The waitress beamed. Apparently wine etiquette was all about quantity. Quality was not a consideration.

Jackie took out her writing pad. All but Carmen ordered steaks and were asked if they wanted gravy with their mashed potato.

“Yes,” they all said.

“White or brown?”

“White or brown what?

“Gravy! Y’all want white or brown gravy?”

Five sets of eyes rolled as they answered “brown.” Carmen imagined the cook reaching for food colouring according to the order.

After Carmen ordered her chicken parmigiana with pasta, Jackie smiled and said, “Y’all help yerself to the salad bar.”

Carmen looked around. “Bill? Do you see any plates?”

“Must be those bowls at the end of the counter.”

“I thought those were cereal bowls,” she said, “…for children.” Dish in hand, she looked over the choices in the salad bar. The huge bowl holding the main ingredient, pale iceberg lettuce, was nearly empty. Dribs and drabs of sliced mushrooms, beans, pickled beet, and other additions meant to liven up the plate, were almost gone, but the six friends managed to scrape together a tired-looking salad.

“Meager pickings, eh?” George said.

Hunger took over and the campers cleaned their plates.

“You guys were sure hungry, eh?” Jackie said. “Don’t worry. I’ll have yer orders up in a jiff.” She layered the empty salad bowls up the length of her arm, apparently oblivious to the blob of mayo that smeared yet another stain on her bespattered white blouse.

Carmen looked forlornly at her dinner. She touched the edge of her well-worn, glass plate. Ice cold. Maybe she should have had the steak too? The spaghetti was cold. She put her finger into the middle where the white chicken breast lay on the white pasta. Lukewarm. She eyed the splash of colour on the side of her plate with dismay—the contents of a can of tomato paste—and one spoonful confirmed that it, too, was only heated to lukewarm. She had opened enough cans of the stuff in making spaghetti sauce to know how it looked and tasted. But pure tomato paste as a sauce? Nothing added, nothing taken away.

“Gross!” she muttered. Bill gave her a sympathetic glance.

A piece of white Wonder bread toasted on one side and slathered in margarine—she knew that smell—teetered on the edge of the plate. “Now I know why they call it Wonder bread. You wonder how anyone can eat it.”

The group made half-hearted stabs at conversation that coincided with half-hearted stabs at their food.

“I should have had steak like you fellows did,” Carmen said to the group.

“You didn’t miss a thing,” George said. “My jaw is tired from trying to chew that flavourless piece of rawhide.”

Jackie had disappeared. Under the circumstances, Carmen thought she would have done the same.

No offers of tea or coffee. No question of dessert. Only the bill already tallied, slapped onto the table. “Y’all have a nice evenin’ now.”

Leaving the hotel, Carmen said, “Ice cream and brandy at our place?”

“Yahoo!”

“Now you’re talking.”

“I feel better already.”

Dorothy in Kansas?

Four years ago we camped in Montana and I learned how close it was to Dorothy and Toto’s Kansas. We parked our 19-foot trailer in a clean, new RV Park. The Captain decided to do a reconnaissance trip while I settled in to catch up with my email.

“Perfect,” I thought, “I’m going to enjoy my little bit of alone time.” Twenty minutes later, disaster struck.

When we first arrived, the Captain put up the trailer awning. You would think he knew about raising sails…. I made the mistake of suggesting that this was not a good idea because northeastern Montana is prairie-like and the wind whistles  unimpeded across the land. Of course, as soon as I  said “Don’t,” he did. Why don’t I learn?

“If it’s too windy, I’ll take it down,” he’d said.

He left. I settled in,  enjoying my laptop and connecting with friends by email. Moments later, the whole trailer began to shake. A big gust of wind buffeted it. Visions went through my head –  the trailer with me inside, bouncing across the prairie like a giant vinyl tumbleweed. I pulled the curtains aside and looked out the window. The canvas was billowing high, and the aluminum support on one side had collapsed so the awning hung onto the trailer at an odd twisted angle.

53More gusts. I had to do something or we might roll over. Outside, I stood wondering what to do. If I did the wrong thing, a big wind gust  could rip the awning or the aluminum supports out of my hands and smash them into the trailer. One support was higher than the other. I tried to lower it one notch at a time by opening the lever and un-telescoping the support. You would think that was the sensible and easy thing to do, except that the pin that holds the telescoped part in place is no longer responding to the lever action when I try to release it. The pin is either broken off or hanging by a thread. I muscled the thing to push it up and used needle-nosed pliers to poke the metal pin back through the slots that held the support in place, but all it did was slide into the next slot down and the struggle began all over again. The old whiplash injury in my neck began to scream in pain at the effort and I had to give up for a while. More gusts of wind. I tried again. More neck pain. I gave up and resigned myself to becoming a tumbleweed.

52I didn’t get much emailing done, or enjoy my “alone time.” I fretted until the Captain came back.

What I had struggled with for two hours took him less than five minutes to fix.

“Huh!” he said, “I didn’t think it was going to be that windy.”

I was dying to say “I told you so,” but what would have been the point?

All Up in the Hills

With apologies to my oldest followers, I’m reblogging this post from four years ago.

Pictures were taken with my tiny Olympus camera before the days of my Nikon. Only this first photo is different, taken by my friend, Ken Johnston.

grizzly

A few years ago, the Captain and I went on a camping trip west of Williams Lake in BC with another couple to fish the highly esteemed Chilko River.

Chilko River

I knew it was grizzly country but in spite of my ursaphobia I didn’t want to miss out on this adventure.

Choelquoit Lake with the Chilko River Valley at the base of the mountains.

Chilko Lake ahead with Chilko River flowing out of it.

The Chilcotin Plateau on our way to Chilko Lake and the Tatlayoko Lake area was scenic and spectacular. Real cowboy country. Near the horse corrals of Chilko Lake Lodge we parked our trailers side by side in a designated camping area.

 

Perfect camping spot

Anonymous checks out “A Room With a View”

I kicked aside hoof trimmings with sharp tacks still sticking out of them. Didn’t want to step on them later.

Horses live here.

We fished some of the many smaller lakes in the area, as well as the Chilko River, for which we needed a special licence (and a promise that we wouldn’t sue if we got frostbite on the river). It was June, and sunny, but the temperature was cool at this altitude.  Chilly and cold.

“Hey! Maybe that’s why it’s called Chilko Lake—‘chilly cold lake.’” I thought I was being witty, but all I got was eye rolls from my shivering companions.

I’m not petite, but with many layers of coats, sweaters, and life jacket on, I’ve doubled in size.

All those layers of clothes and still chilly and cold on the Chilko.

“We should try to find a better spot to launch the skiff,” the Captain said. “There’s a good place right around here.  Saw it last year. The main road runs parallel to the river. Somewhere, there’s a trail between the two.” Moments later he spotted it. A narrow road had been pushed through the dense woods. It might have been passable with our four-wheel-drive truck except that large boulders had been strategically placed to prevent vehicle access. We got out and walked through the woods.

Hiking time

“I don’t mind a hike, but what about grizzlies?”

“Oh, you don’t need to worry about them. They’re all up in the hills this time of year.”

Why didn’t that reassure me? “And you know this, how?”

“I just know.”

I shrugged my shoulders and strapped on my bear spray. “Okay, let’s go.”

“The river’s got to be just around the bend,” the Captain said. In the next twenty minutes he would repeat this phrase many times.

My neck felt rubbery from swiveling to check behind me. “Are you sure about the grizzlies?”

“No grizzlies this time of year. I told you, they’re all up in the hills.”

This sounded very familiar. It was the same thing he had said when we were stranded in grizzly country on the coast the day we got cut off by the tide.  “You always say that.”

“No really, they are,” he said.  “It’s too early for grizzlies.”

The launching spot we eventually found was nowhere near where we hiked that day through “non-grizzly country.” We fished the river and were amazed at the huge fish that remained, for the most part, elusive. Three things stood out for me on those days on the river:

1. The scenery was spectacular.

2. It was cold enough to freeze your goosebumps.

3. Blessedly, there were no grizzlies on the river (which is why I liked being in the boat).

Pretty cool trip

After several days at the horse ranch, the forecast of heavy rain marked the end of our stay.

We packed up and started for home. Outfitted with walkie-talkies in each truck, we led the way, chatting occasionally to our friends who followed behind in their rig.

Time to leave

The roads were turning ugly in places as the downpour dampened the clay gumbo under the gravel topping. We were getting out just in time.

For sure it was time to leave!

That’s when it happened.

“Did you see that?” I pointed to the road in front of us, then turned to see where the two grizzlies disappeared into the trees. We pulled over to the side to peer through the woods. The trees were so close together I wondered how a grizzly could fit between them, especially at a gallop.

“Two grizzlies just ran across the road in front of us,” the Captain said into the walkie-talkie.

“Oh yeah? Well, you’ve got a flat tire,” our friend said.

“Ha, ha! Very funny,” we answered into the mike.

“No, I’m serious. Your back right trailer tire is flat. I’m parked right behind you and believe me, it’s flat.”

“Is he messing with our heads?” I asked. “Right where the grizzlies went into the woods?”

Only flat on the bottom

“I’ll check it out.” The expression on his face when he came back to the cab told me it was bad news. “We must have driven over one of those hoof clippings with the tacks. You take the shotgun and stand right there while I change the tire.”

My neck felt prickly but I couldn’t wimp out and leave the Captain to be grizzly bait all alone, so I stood there with the shotgun. Our friend stood guard with his rifle — brave soul –, and his wife stayed in their truck — smart woman.

After a while, I got bored. The gravel on the roadside looked soft, and the grizzlies—a mother and a teenage cub I would guess—were really moving, so they should have left some tracks. I wandered a bit, looking up and down the ditch for the tracks.

“Here!” the Captain called. “Just stand there with that shotgun. I don’t trust those buggers.” No more pooh-poohing my ursaphobia now. I should have felt some “I-told-you-so” satisfaction but all I felt was jumpy nerves.

At last the spare tire was on and tools put away. I did a quick check for overlooked tire irons and such. And that’s when I found it—the grizzly track I’d been looking for—right behind the newly changed tire.

Either a grizzly or Bigfoot

“Oh my God! It’s exactly right here that they went into the woods!”

As we drove away, the Captain scrunched his face up. “Ahem … I didn’t want to tell you earlier,” he said, “but a rancher near Tatlayoko Lake lost some livestock to grizzlies last week.”

“All up in the hills. Hah!”

Desert Camping, Hot Love

I’ve copied this post from my other blog, https://annelisplace.wordpress.com/ in the hopes that I could interest my wordsfromanneli followers to check out my second blog. That blog is dedicated mainly to authors, writing, and books, but it need not be of interest only to writers. Without readers, we writers are like rudderless ships.

Please indulge me the copied post this time, and please do go visit my other blog if you feel the slightest interest in writing-related topics. Check out the archives in https://annelisplace.wordpress.com

I wanted to tell you how it came about that I wrote the book Orion’s Gift, so if you’re still with me, here it is:

While camping in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, I noticed a woman sitting alone in a van parked near the beach. I never saw her get out of her vehicle. She sat in the driver’s seat most of the time, listening to audio tapes and chain smoking cigarettes.

armenta (1)

The beach was beautiful, the sun shone every day, the water was clear and inviting, the place was a paradise. Why would she not get out and inhale that fresh air, go for a walk or a swim, or enjoy this little bit of heaven? I certainly did.

Anneli 4

It puzzled me and I wondered what her story was. Her plates said San Diego. I mulled over many scenarios. Why was she alone? Why did she never get out of her van? Was she trying to kill herself with the first and secondhand smoke in the enclosed vehicle?

The seeds  of a novel were germinating in my head. A California girl comes to Baja alone. But why? I would make her health-minded, young, and beautiful. Yes, the character was taking shape in my head.

palapa 2

She would need to find a love interest, but who would be down here on his own and why? Men come to Baja alone, looking for … something ….

Each of the characters had good reasons for being on the run, but would that interfere with them starting a new relationship? What if the attraction was so strong, they couldn’t resist?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But what if their past troubles are coming after them? Will the new lovers stick together? Will they panic, split, and run to escape their pursuers? And what about that drug runner who is out for revenge for a slight on the road?

sunset at La Perla

Life could be so perfect, if only those nasty people from their past weren’t coming after them.

For a gripping story of love and suspense wrapped up in a Baja adventure, why not spend a big $2.99 and download Orion’s Gift from amazon.com or smashwords.com today?

Cover design for Orion’s Gift is by Anita B. Carroll. Thank you, Anita for a great cover image. You can contact Anita at anita@race-point.com

eBOOK_ORIONS_GIFT

Thar’s Snow in Them Thar Montana Hills

This past October 4, when we started our annual Montana trip, it seemed that the snow came early – at least, up in the hills it did. Driving toward eastern Montana, we wondered if we would be in for more snow and whether our little trailer was going to keep us warm enough. Should we maybe have brought our skis?

The stretch between Helena and Great Falls is always a beautiful drive along the Missouri River. Sometimes we’ve seen snow on the hilltops on our way home in later October, but this was the beginning of the trip and the weather was worrying the wimp in me.

DSCN4094

The temperature was a chilly 4 degrees C. (or about  39 degrees, for those using Fahrenheit) and I tried to keep my trepidation in check. Would I enjoy this wintery trip when I had expected summer temperatures, at least in the daytime?

DSCN4083

This herd of mule deer gawked at us as we drove by. I’m sure they were shaking their heads and thinking, “Tourists! What a time of year to come to Montana!”  But they didn’t know how much we love this state.

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Ironing the Beach

This is an old photo I came across. Pablo, the man in the photo, took care of the beach where we stayed. The land belonged to his wife’s family for generations, he told us. There are no facilities, except an outhouse, but most people who camp there have everything they need in their RVs. When we stayed at Pablo’s beach the price was very reasonable at $3.00 per night to park on the beach. $5.00 if you wanted a palapa as well. We stayed for about three months and loved every minute of it.

This was what they call dry camping, not because the desert is dry, but because there are no amenities like running water or electricity. It’s very rustic, but also very natural and beautiful. It is quiet there unless someone brings battery-operated radios or (in those days, about 18 years ago) cassette tape players. More often you’d hear someone playing a guitar by the campfire or a group of friends singing at happy hour.

Pablo was rightly proud of his beach and kept it clean. He took the seaweed away in a wheelbarrow and dumped it far from the camping area so the little flies didn’t infest the sandy beach. Hard work for a man in his early 70s.

Here he is, ironing the beach. I couldn’t believe it when he told me he was “planchando la playa.” Ironing the beach?! I looked it up. Yes, that’s what he had said. He was flattening the sand that many footsteps had scuffed and as he ran his homemade ironing board over an area, it raked up any foreign objects (like cigarette butts, and beer caps) that would otherwise make the beach messy.

The handle of the “iron” Pablo is using, is made from a spine of the cardón cactus. Very hard wood.

ironing the beach [1]

It was after spending a couple of winters in Baja at Pablo´s beach that I decided to write my novel “Orion’s Gift.” In the story I had a character like Pablo but named him Alfonso.

If a romantic suspense drama in Baja interests you, why not check out “Orion’s Gift”?

Orion's Gift

Available at all amazon outlets and smashwords.com.

smashwords.com.

Amazon.com