or…as the gnome remains home

greetings dear readers.  as you might guess this entry into our adventure chronicles is not about being on the road and you’d be correct.  quite the contrary, it’s about not being mobile.  we, like most of the rest of the citizens, have become stationary due to the pandemic and resulting quarantine.  i’ll try not to be too judgmental regarding how or why all this has happened.  my intent here is to simply document an old man and his dog living out this science fictionesque drama.  as usual i’m making a record for myself and sharing it with whoever would like to ride along (so to speak).  what follows is probably one of the most difficult and demanding attempts to “live in the now” that we’ve faced so far…


the gnome is on lockdown.  yeah, and it took a damned pandemic to bring him to a halt.  today is wednesday, april eighth.  you faithful readers may remember our last adventure this thing was becoming a serious reality.  i, like many i suspect, was alarmed in march when this plague was still gathering steam.  being alarmed was the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  since then the news has become more dire on a daily basis.  the news is filled with reports of casualties, new infections and predictions.   this report will not rehash those sorts of things.

the gnome is remaining mum on the situation.  he’s old (very) and has seen his share of this sort of stuff.  his is a wise silence.  sweet simple is pretty much retaining her puppy attitude.  for that i am grateful altho i suspect that somehow she knows something is up.  she’s hanging much closer to me than usual.  there’s a very good chance that my anxiety, and i have a lot of that now, is registering on her radar.  some things can’t be kept from a dog that shares your space.  i’ve heard it said that human is the only animal on earth that knows that it will die.  i suppose that’s true.  empirical evidence leads me to that supposition.  i mean, how many other animals buy life insurance and go to church?  there’s other clues, but you get the picture.  and i do welcome the puppy’s attention.  going thru this ordeal would be considerably worse were it not for her.  i’m holding up fairly well.  physically i feel great.  the puppy and i walk a mile and a half every morning.  those walks are very different than “normal”.  not many other folks out and no traffic.  it’s a somewhat surreal situation (ha!) out there.

people are writing chalk messages on their driveway intended to make folks feel better.  encouraging notes with religious undertones and humorous pleads for more beer and/or wine.  i suspect that a deeper root is a desire to proclaim their continuance.  whatever, i makes me feel as if i’m living in some sci fi novel.  it’s time for that walk now…we’ll be checking in now and then.




thursday…one of the motivations for this entry about being trapped by the virus was/is  an examination of my reactions to the whole thing.  the trip home was via the i twenty six presented me with the first time being alone and trying to process the…well, what the hell was happening.  all i had to go on was what i’d learned at the campground where most weren’t talking about it.  those that were obviously less informed than i.  (little or none).  confusion, anger, fear and dread came and went and did several encores.  i don’t like driving with the radio, etc playing while towing and i wasn’t about to make an exception.  there’s a lot going on with a trailer zooming along at sixty two miles per hour and some of those things might be good to know about.  i find the “highway sound” comforting (most of the time and when it’s not so soothing there are noises that are important to hear) and for the hundred and twenty mile ride home i need all the comforting i could find.


the arrival here at the dude ranch was another distraction from the pending calamity.  my fitst goal was to get the trailer into the carport.  i had to pat myself on the back for the most excellent backing job i’ve done with the new truck so far.  i think i’m becoming accustomed that extra couple of feet in the truck’s wheelbase (that’s trailer geek talk).  then i needed to transfer the refrigerated stuff and just the necessities for living in a different space.  all of this was a great distraction as my ocd kicked in.  then it was long hot shower time which led to cold beer time and the inevitable television.  i’d sorta aimed for the news hour to park in front of the one eyed monster.  that, dear readers, was a very frightening hour.  you see (and i think i mentioned this from the hall),  i’d intentionally avoided the news while on the coast.  the four horsemen of the apocalypse that kept me company on the freeway came roaring back.  there were check in calls to/from belle, bonnie and ri and it was obvious they had their own horsemen show going on.  i wish i’d had a comforting speech to deliver.  assurances that everyone was ok and promises to stay in touch were all any of us could do.  it was a strange and fretful sleep with intense dreams.  i woke early and immediately felt relieved that it was all a dream.  that, as you might guess, didn’t last long….

my reaction to the reality of the situation went thru stages…

dazed and more than a bit confused i took to my couch and that monster television.  i now understand the meaning of “binge watching”.  netflix, hbo and prime are more than willing to provide endless doses of distraction.  in the comfortable arms of digital algorithms i spent hours upon hours watching stuff that i can’t tell you much about now…it’s a blur.  i do know that that watching was interrupted daily for watching of a different kind…the news.  an hour’s worth of reality that was weirder than anything i got from the streaming guys.  the first time in my life that i can remember being bombarded with seriously disturbing reality over a period of time was the polio epidemic.  mostly kids trapped in those iron lungs which to my young eyes looked like bombs with heads.  since i was a kid also i took the threat very seriously.  then there was the vietnam war.  every evening huntly and brinkley would update the body count and offer up some pretty scary visuals as well.  again, i was at a vulnerable age.  and now this…the deadly invisible enemy.  striking rapidly and so frequently the infected count climbed faster than imaginable.  and i found myself in the crosshairs of calamity yet again due to my relationship with that calendar.  the news was full of, for lack of a better word, opinions.  no, wait…there is a better word, bullshit.  yeah, seems as if everyone was mostly saying stuff to make up for what they really didn’t know. 

so, the comforting television lost it’s luster and i fell back on america’s perennial feel good activity…shopping.  and amazon was at the ready to be my facilitator.  i started off large.  a new camera.  my reasoning was that if i was going to face armageddon i was going to have a proper device to record that event.  this was not a totally new notion.  i’d not been completely captivated with my last photographic purchase.  it was a competent instrument but very small and it forced you to hold it out in front of you to compose on an led screen (you know, like a phone).  some people don’t have an issue with that but i’m not one of them.  and my fat fingers made it damned near impossible to navigate the interface on that screen.  so…imagine my delight when i discovered a modern digital camera that looks and feels like the first camera i fell in love with (the leica rangefinder).  it can be programed to behave exactly like a camera.  you can manually focus, adjust the aperture and shutter speed.  all things that an old photographer appreciates.  it’s still small but not so small that it’s lost in my hand.  once that major acquisition was made i continued with orders for new blue jeans, underwear and t shirts.  my spring wardrobe if you will.  that box of roller ball pens that i’d so far avoided buying, some paper to for the printer and some new kitchen knives and other stuff i can’t even remember.  knowing the chocolate santa was going to visit me was the payoff.  one interesting order was for a thermometer and some face shields that haven’t arrived yet and i’m told it will be another week or so. something to look forward to.  it didn’t take long to realize that my bank account couldn’t adequately support this buying frenzy and it was time to find another diversion.

this time i turned to a more productive diversion.  actually doing some things that really needed to be done.  i now have a washed and waxed trailer and truck.  an organized work area in the back of my carport and will next do that organizing thing in the workshop out back.  after that i’ll turn toward one of my least favorite activities.  yard work.  there’s a huge pollen mess that needs attention, grass to mow and weeds to be pulled.  so, maybe i can make those tasks last until the stay at home order is lifted.  stay tuned….


monday afternoon here in confinement at the dude ranch.  the weekend was consumed with house stuff.  my living space got hoovered and mopped along with a bit of dusting that cursed yellow pollen.  i also attacked the deck and screen porch with a leaf blower…stage one in of destroying the evidence of the many pine trees’ procreation activities this spring.  it’s been a banner year for the yellow scourge.

our morning walks remain blissfully uneventful.  occasional passing cars and few other walkers.  i’d imagine that with the stay at home decree nobody needs to get in that exercise in the wee hours.  because simple and i prefer the cockcrow time we’re pretty much on our own out there.  i did learn this morning from a neighbor (who knows all the scoop on what’s up here in the suburbs of forest acres) that there are two folks here in the hood that have the virus.  both received treatment and returned to their respective homes.  a hell of a lot better than dying all alone in an icu bed. 

very early this morning a mighty storm blew thru the area.  the first time it waked me  was around two am.  then, every hour or so it would do another act of the same play.  finally at around four i gave up and decided to go get some live updates on what was happening.  this, of course, had to be done with the assistance of a pot of coffee.  the weather people on television were thrilled to be getting so much screen time and had lots of very colorful graphics obviously designed to scare you.  it worked well.  from the shelter of the screen porch the puppy and i were able to experience the thunder, lightening, pouring rain and swaying silhouettes of tall pine trees up close and personal.  fortunately it was just a very dramatic display of momma nature’s mischief.  other folks not far away were not as lucky.

early wednesday here at the dude ranch.  i’ve noticed sleep pattern disruptions.  waking fully two or three times nightly.  not those oh, i gotta pee wake ups but full on i’m awake events.  while i’m emptying my way too small bladder i’m planning morning activities which, of course, always begin with coffee.  back in the bedroom i glance at the clock and realize that it’s still in the very wee hours of the morning and it’s gonna make for a very long day should i remain awake.  so then i climb back into the bed, snuggle up with the puppy and thankfully swiftly return to dream land.  when the real wake up time arrives i not as rested as i should be.  this can’t be healthy behavior.

yesterday we resurrected the back porch.  this involved stripping all the stuff that needed to remain dry and taking a high pressure hose to what was left.  i waded for a long time in a yellow pond removing all that pollen.  a short drying time break with the aid of a couple fans and then wiping off and replacing the dry stuff and taking the opportunity to rearrange a bit and toss some junk.  by mid afternoon i was sitting on that pollenless porch with a celebratory cup of bourbon coffee feeling very good about having that space again. 

i try to resist the urge to rant regarding politics on this blog.  however…it really is absurd how they’ve politicized this pandemic.  why can’t we put that stuff on hold while we try to deal with this worldwide invasion of the invisible monster attacking all of us.  then there are the inevitable scams.  no big surprise but, there has to be a special place in hell for those that are so quick to try to turn a buck on misfortune.  times of crises sure expose the sordid underbelly of humanity.  ok, i’m kicking the soapbox back into it’s corner.

the puppy is whining her “time for a walk song”.

later that same day…after our walk and my breakfast i set about paying some bills and then decided to get some groceries.  so, in the interest of safety (mine and others), i figured it would be a great time to do the home shopping and pick up at the store thing.  first off the site was a bit offputting but i persevered.  for over two hours i persevered to get my order made.  then, when i attempted check out and schedule pick up dates i was told the first open date was ten days away.  yeah, april twenty fifth.  i understand that things are busy in the grocery world and this service is in high demand but it would have been nice of them to let me know about this ten day wait period before i started my spree.  time to find some rubber gloves and my homemade mask i suppose.


i’ve heard that this past march was the first in eighteen years without a school shooting.  let that sink in for a moment…

today was grocery day.  decked out in my purple rubber gloves and home made camo face mask.  this wasn’t one of those relaxed, browsing events, more like an operation (in the military sense) and my mission was to safely get in, get grub and get out.  trader joe’s and lowes market were the combat zone.  i marched right in and much to my surprise and delight the crowd was scant on both fronts.  with precision i negotiated each and every isle quickly scooping up the spoils of war.  no wait at either of the check out stations, it did however take a bit longer than usual since i had two of everything.  why go to battle more than necessary?  i reckon i’m supplied for a month.  broke but supplied.


our spring weather is doing it’s best to imitate winter the past few days.  it’s been chilly for our morning walk abouts.  forties early on and only warming to the mid sixties in the afternoons.  the days have been pretty splendid with clear blue skies.  it’ll warm over the weekend but it will be a wet warm.  and that dear readers is your weather update from the poplar ridge dude ranch.




tuesday.  well,  not a lot has happened since the last post that i can remember.  remembering seems to be a hard thing to do in lockdown alone.  and by alone i mean no human companions.  simple can remember and so can the gnome.  the gnome isn’t talking and simple can’t.  reference points in my mind seem to just not be there.  i mean one day is just like the others.  if i didn’t have a computer to keep track of the calendar i’d have no notion of which day we’re experiencing.  this is not a good way to live.  but then, there’s a serious lack of alternatives.  there’s been a lot of talk about “opening the economy” which means allowing people to return to their jobs to create things that other people can go out and purchase.  some people maintain that it’s too soon and we run the risk of a return of infections.  there’s another crowd that thinks it’s a great idea to end the shutdown and “return our freedom”.  these would be the folks protesting at state houses around the country.  some of that crowd are heavily armed with their second amendment equipment.  i’m not sure i understand the logic of that but i’d assume it’s a show of force to make a point about freedoms.  at this point i don’t really care.  i do know that whatever path is taken i’ll remain here at the dude ranch unarmed until those scientists and doctors say it’s safe and then for a bit longer to see if they’re correct. 

well, that was a rather dour paragraph to start off with.  why don’t we walk on the positive side of the road now.  toward the end of last week simple and i broke our surly bonds and went visiting.  a friend and her puppy invited us over for a proper social distancing visit in her delightful back yard.  the puppies didn’t socially distance themselves and had a proper romp climbing all over each other.  my friend and i didn’t romp but i will say that the sound of another human and conversation was delightful music. 

then there was a virtual birthday party for my grand-daughter.  while it was not as fun as the real thing would have been it was a great treat to see those smiling young faces and hear their squeals of delight.  these are indeed times that create new and unique memories.  i can’t help but wonder if these unique arrangements might become the new normal in our world someday….

in an attempt to achieve some variety in our everyday life simple and i have taken a new walking route around a couple of lakes in the neighborhood.  well, not really “lakes” but large ponds.  the change of scenery is nice and it’s about a half mile longer and according to simple has a plethora of new and interesting smells.


wednesday.  i consulted my computer calendar and as best i can tell i’ve been living in fear for the past thirty three days.  well, not really “fear” but a nagging knowledge that i or someone i care about may become infected and possibly die.  but wait…isn’t that “fear”?  i can deal with all the rest of it, the inconvenience is tolerable and many folks are even providing some good humor about it.  i’ve a notion that lifting the contact limiting restraints is at the very least going to begin a new chapter in the crisis.  good or bad, it will be new.


yesterday was laundry day and i used solar energy to dry clothes for the first time this year.  i do prefer not to use the clothes dryer for well, clothes.  and towels…gotta love those crunchy air dried towels!  oh, and it’s free!  i’m using a new method for doing stuff.  the goal is to accomplish at least one task daily.  and no, getting out of bed doesn’t count.  this task is in addition to all those that get done on a daily basis.  preparing meals, doing the dishes, taking out trash, napping and such all fall into that daily basis category.  i’ve mowed the grass out back and pulled all the weeds from the cactus garden.  i gotta tell you that weeding a cactus garden is something that needs to be done with great care for obvious reasons.

“testing” for the virus is a hot button topic now.  all sorts of issues like how much, which test, who will do this testing and who will be tested are being debated.  while others answer those questions i’ve devised my own test.  “they” say that one of the first signs you’re infected is loosing your sense of smell.  well, i can tell you i’m safe so far.  every morning simple provides the material and i get a good whiff while bagging it.  i’ll let you know if anything changes.

friday.  i’m sitting here trying to remember what i did yesterday.  i can’t.  i do know it was a rainy day and whatever productive i accomplished was indoors.  perhaps folding and storing clean clothes was about it.  there might have been some domestic duties taken care of.  the floors have been vacuumed along with a bit of other cleaning tasks and i guess they were done yesterday.  i know that i took delivery of a new (yeah, there’s still a bit of shopping being done) bluetooth speaker.  with this i can go onto my porch and listen to my phone (or any other bluetooth enabled device).  this allows me to play my phone music and tune radio broadcasts (again, from the phone) .  now, before you get all in my stuff about buying stuff, for a long time i’ve wished for audio on the porch.  i tried several radio solutions which didn’t work out so well.  this gizmo lets me have music and radio seamlessly without having to worry about rain messing with the functionality of the device.  and get this… the speaker is solar powered!  yeah, i know…there’s another trend here.  a full charge will run for ten hours or so.  this thing will be really great for camping (if i ever do that again).  music outside the trailer will be a new experience.  it was an impulse purchase from a company whose products i already use and it was only twenty five bucks!!  i couldn’t resist…

today i did a bit of yard work.  the carport/trailer nest has been blown out along with the driveway to remove what i call “tree worms” that fall after the pine pollen.  i’m not sure what caused me to tackle this task, but…i feel better now that it’s done.  my god, is this pandemic thing turning me into a neat freak regarding the grounds here at the dude ranch?  all that leaf blower activity led to a nap which was followed by a very satisfying session with coffee on the back porch listening to music (on the new speaker of course).  now, music is/was a very important part of my life.  i don’t listen as often any longer, but, when i do i realize what a big deal is is.  the emotions and memories those tunes reignite are amazing and comforting.  for over two hours or so i just listened to the tunes that were a very big deal back in the day.  i must admit that there were some moist eyes on the porch.

it’s a monday after a busy weekend.  well, as busy as one can be under the circumstances.  friday morning there was a visit to trader joe’s.  taking advantage of the geezer hour (from eight to nine am) they’ve established.  you gotta be one to get in.  i had no issues gaining access (not even a second glance from the monitor stationed at the entrance).  there were but a few customers (twenty or so).  everyone was moving slowly and keeping socially distanced.  not a bad shopping experience at all.  except, of course, the nagging menace of the virus.  saturday afternoon my sister-in-law treated our cousin and i to margaritas and fish tacos.  we remained properly socially distanced and i went home with a belly full.  that qualifies as a busy weekend in a pandemic.

if you can forget for a moment the massive loss of life associated with the pandemic there are some very positive things happening.  ranging from folks just being a bit nicer, less traffic and associated noise to environmental changes.  catalina island (thirty miles or so off the coast of southern california) can be seen from the mainland for the first time in a very long time.  there are some stunning photos from the space station showing a much cleaner planet. no traffic on the freeways equals clear air.  i saw some video from venice, italy of a large jellyfish totally visible swimming in one of these famous canals that was full of crystal clear water instead of the murky mess that was there not long ago.  wouldn’t it be nice if, after the virus is taken care of, mankind could work a little harder to make momma earth as happy as she is now? 


it’s trash pickup day here on the ridge.  i know that because all my neighbors have pulled their refuse carts to the street.  and that dear readers is how i know it’s tuesday.

yesterday and today are splendid examples of springtime is the south.  clear blues with a few clouds and a breeze with just enough chill to let you know it’s simply spring.  the weather guessers say we’ll be seeing nearly ninety on our thermometers by week’s end.  those protective masks i ordered back when the pandemic was just letting everyone know it was here are yet to show up.  in fact, yesterday wally world let me know that i would be receiving a credit on my card and cancelling the order.  i’ve placed another order with a vendor that brags about their quick shipping.  we’ll see…

so…we’ll not be camp hosting in vermont this summer.  it was a tough decision made easy by al lot of doctors and scientists saying we’re just not out of the woods yet and if people get out and about too quickly a second wave of death is a distinct possibility.  and what are people doing?  well, in a lot of states, they’re rushing out to restart the economy.  why, i could drive to georgia today get a tattoo,  a haircut and workout in a gym and be back home by early evening.  i sent an e-mail letter of resignation to the campground manager early yesterday.  her reply was quick saying that she was about to contact me to dissuade me from reporting to duty.  her reasoning was the same as mine…not worth the risk.  she doesn’t even know for sure if they’re going to have a season.  the park opening has been delayed and may not even happen.  i do feel better knowing that we’re on the same page about this thing but, i was so looking forward to a vermont summer.  perhaps next year.

a friend told me today that her new favorite drink was vodka on the clorocks with a twist.  i also read that poison control centers all over the country are reporting an unusually high number of calls regarding the use of commercial disinfectants to combat the virus.  my friend was joking but, the folks making those calls weren’t.  people in positions of authority really should think before they speak.  some however, seem to not be very well acquainted with the concept of thinking.

it’s about nap time and after that perhaps i’ll try to get these words posted to the blog.  two very good reasons to ignore those yard work tasks that i keep saying i’ll do….





happy cinco de mayo!  yeah, entering the third month of pandemic panic.  things have gotten even more crazy and confusing.  at first it was the federal government issuing directives and warnings.  and that sorta went lunatic before too long.  insufferably long “briefings” (briefing being a concept obviously not understood at the federal level) featuring our elected “leaders” telling the nation one thing and the doctors and scientists who work for them warning us of the misinformation we just received.  this went on for a while until the elected guys (who really want to be reelected) sorta threw in the towel and told us that the states should decide the best path out of the mess.  as you might imagine there wasn’t an abundance of agreement regarding that path.  oh, and there were sideshows of heavily armed citizens gathering at various state houses demanding “freedom” (for them and at gunpoint).  freedom to get haircuts, tattoos, to eat at public restaurants, play golf and even freedom to not to wear basic masks to help abate the virus. the good old us of a now has more deaths than any other country.  we’re still counting.  some states flung open the doors of infection wide, others are opening a few at a time but, in general, things are opening up everywhere.  now, mind you, this is when the doctors and scientists are issuing serious warning about a “phase two”.  yeah, a rebound which could very likely be worse that what we’ve been thru already.  and…there’s a mutant form of coronavirus that’s even more contagious waiting in the wings.   and that dear readers is your virus update.

the previous paragraph does a lot to explain why i and many others are scared and confused.  personally this old guy intends to do what he’s been doing all along until the body count numbers start to fall.  and then, i’ll wait just a bit longer to see if it stays down before i relax.  long early morning walks with the puppy to start the day followed by some sort of “constructive activity”, longer than usual naps and enjoying my two beers ration in the evenings.  my kids and i manage to stay in touch electronically and we all take comfort knowing the others are safe.  but, you know, a hug sure would be nice.



there’s a shiny truck and trailer in my driveway.  ready and waiting to take us to beautiful places with good times.  while i take some comfort knowing that it’s there and ready, it’s still a sad reminder that we’ll not be hearing that highway sound any time soon.  while my rig gently weeps….

that’s about all there is to report from the dude ranch.  oh, i could go on about the tortures of the yard work i’ve been using as an escape, the house is cleaner than it has been in some time.  hell, i’ve even washed all the windows (in the part of the house i actually live in).  and i’ve spent some quality time with the new camera.  it’s a joy to use and has become an important part of our kit on those morning walks.  all in all we’re hanging in there and hope you are as well.  now go wash your hands…




friday morning here at the dude ranch ten days or so since our last post.  all the news says things are opening back up.  i think those that are still under lockdown are due to be reopened very soon.  this has become a very polarizing circumstance (yeah, no surprise there huh?).  all of this is sharing the stage with a virus that refuses to go away.  one hundred twenty five new cases in the state yesterday.  my plan of action is still the same…continue to lay low and pay attention.  then when there are no new cases for a while i’ll start thinking about a meal being served to me before i go for a haircut, work out at a gym, get a tattoo and a massage.

over the years i’ve been accused of being a hermit (or a recluse).  this accusation has some merit.  i will not deny that i do enjoy my solitude, however, it’s not a total thing for me.  i suppose we could just say i enjoy other people in small doses. these troglodyte tendencies (ha!) have lessened the impact of social isolation.  my life hasn’t changed much as a result of mandated isolation.  what has changed is the dread that i experience when i do venture out.  it’s not really terrifying or disabling but, there’s something unsettling about putting on a mask and rubber gloves to run an errand.  my solution has  been to do what i can to make jeff bezos achieve that trillionaire status.  then every couple weeks or so i go to trader joe’s and lowes foods, buy two of everything i want and scramble back home.  our state park dog park has reopened and we do go there.  it’s a very large facility and i never see more than a couple of folks there with their pups.  we’re all aware of social distancing and it works out.  we just have to talk a bit louder (we’re all old).


if (there’s that all important word) there was no pandemic going on, we’d be on our way to vermont for the summer.  if you’ve ever experienced  summertime in the middle of south carolina you’d understand why i was so looking forward to being in vermont.  it would also be very nice to be on the road.  but alas, twas not to be.  maybe next year.

it’s been eleven days since i first wrote on this entry and not a lot has changed since.  “restarting the economy” is in full swing here in south carolina.  memorial day weekend has just ended and from what i saw on the television folks are not doing very well with the social distancing thing.  crowds on the beaches, lakes and other attraction places were large and close.  restaurants were serving inside at half capacity and from the looks of things there were lots of hungry people.  speaking of food, i made a trip to the beer store last week (yes, it’s an essential product) and right next door there’s an eatery known for their crispy fried chicken.  well, i got a whiff of frying chicken and thought why not take some home for lunch?   i walked over and took a place in the queue.  while i stood there i noticed that none of the cooks or servers were wearing masks or gloves.  suddenly i began to question my decision and with but a bit of questioning i did an about face and marched out empty handed.  that two piece chicken snack will just have to wait a while.  another of those things that will stay on my “looking forward to it” list.


my dear sister in law, a woman with boundless energy, volunteered to paint my bathroom.  either she was really bored or felt sorry for me using a bathroom with such old paint.  a bit of both most likely.  anyway i gladly accepted and spent a day removing everything that i didn’t want painted.  then there was three days of spackle and sandpaper leading to primer coat and then final coat.  in the meantime i’d been busy on the computer and ordered a small corner cabinet to replace all the old and somewhat rusted chrome shelves.  and yes, there was “some assembly required”.  it had been a long time since i’d assembled a mail order piece of furniture and i can report that the instructions provided (yes, i read the directions) have not improved over the years.  one of those projects that could have been finished in a half day with good information which those line drawings of the thing were not.  yeah, it took a day and a half.  some things never change.

there was a notable event in the garden (i use that term very loosely) recently.  the prickly pear cactus bloomed!  now, this will not impress you folks from the great southwest, however in south carolina it’s pretty special.  my yard work here continues at the blistering speed of an old snail.  progress has been hampered by rain.  we’ve entered our subtropical rainy season.  over eight inches of precipitation in the past five days.  the kind of rain that comes with storms.  lots of thunder and lightening.  it’s way too wet to plow.

and speaking of notable events…my son-in-law chris just this morning was notified that he’d been awarded the james beard award for his book about okra.  okra!  this is a very big deal (trust me).  it was a big deal that he actually wrote an entertaining book about the vegetable but, to receive this prestigious recognition is over the moon!  congrats chris!


buck hall redux

well…here we are back at the place where a lot of things were set into motion.  to briefly recap for you dear readers who might not have been along when all this started…ten years (or so) ago i retired.  turned my back on the workaday world and set off to make a new existence.  we hit the road to celebrate by driving the blue ridge parkway and then the skyland drive parkway.  well, of course, that involved a lot of hills (called mountains here in the eastern part of this great country).  it was a great trip but all those hills grew a bit tiresome toward the end and i was longing for some flatland experience.  the magic of the internet pointed me toward a small national forest campground on the coast of south carolina.  well, we made our way here and fell in love with this small out of the way refuge on the inter coastal waterway.  i was so infatuated with the place that i approached a pleasant lady dressed in a green forest service uniform and asked how i could become a campground host.  she smiled and said “wait  right here”.  she returned with forms that needed to be submitted and within a month the forest service called and asked if i could host for march and april.  all i could say was “hell yes!”  that was the beginning of a six year experience that proved to be amazing.  it’s been about three years since i’ve been here after i turned in my host’s hat and i felt it was time to revisit.

and boy howdy, did i pick a strange time for this redux!  the nation is in a panic with the pandemic (coronavirus).  the country is slowly shutting down telling everyone to “shelter in place”.  yeah, i know, i’m not obeying the rules (sort of a perineal problem of mine) but, i sure feel a lot safer here than in a city. 

the drive down (a hundred fifty miles or so) was pleasant on a cloudy but dry day.  the road here from home is a boulevard of memories.  two lane blacktops thru rural south carolina that i can traverse without a sat nav.  there was a stop at cooper’s country store to stock up on dead porcine products (sausage and country ham with a pulled pork sandwich to go). 

this is the first real world test of the new (sound familiar?) solar powered cooler.  it’s really operated on a solar charged lithium battery.  it’s sorta like the amazing fridge i installed in the casita…12v/120vac and no gas involved.  that cooler maintained a temperature in the mid thirties for the entire trip and the battery was still fully charged when we arrived at the campground.  we’ll see how it performs during the dark.

we are on site two at the hall.  it’s the one site i alway envied when i was hosting here.  it provides a view of the waterway and the sunrise thru the back window of the casita (the trailer doesn’t have a front window) and it’s next to a wonderful live oak tree. 

my pals jake and clancy are here as well.  sort of a boy’s retreat.  we’ve not done a lot of interaction today what with all the set up stuff but i expect that will change tomorrow. 

it’s late and it’s been a long day….goodnight.


tuesday morning here at the hall.  it been a long time since i woke here with absolutely nothing to do.  no paperwork that must be done, no bathrooms to look after, no irate campers to deal with (the happy campers seldom bothered to tell the host).  it feels nice to have no responsibilities other than to enjoy this wonderful place and look after that wonderful dog.  one thing however has not changed…those damned noseeums are out in full force.  they’ve driven simple and i back into the trailer.  the puppy and i share our ill will for those cursed little creatures.  they may play an important role in the ecosystem here but, i can’t imagine what that role might be.

i was up before the sun and simple this morning.  sipping bourbon flavored coffee and listening to the quiet was peaceful.  when the puppy finally decided to open her eyes we went for a morning walk.  there was a bit of excitement when she managed to slip off the edge of the waterway onto the large rocks lining that edge.  it was low tide so she didn’t get wet but she was very anxious to get back out.  on her hind legs her front paws just made it to the ledge from where she had fallen.  i still had her leash but that was of little use attempting to help her.  i had to lie down so i could reach her armpits and extract her.  forty five pounds of squirming dog is a handful but somehow we managed to get her back on dry land.  she has a new found respect for that edge now.

after our walk we both had breakfast.  she had her usual kibble while i had country ham biscuits yeah, i know…not really a healthy breakfast but it sure was tasty.  the ham came from cooper’s country store.  a place in the middle of nowhere not far from salters, south carolina.  george cooper raises the hogs that he turns into hams, sausages and some seriously good sausage and bbq.  he’s been doing it for many years and i don’t think the store/gas station has changed very much in those years.  well, he did finally change the sign from the original esso to exxon. 

the day has remained overcast, mildly warm and intermittent showers.  that, dear readers, is the buck hall weather report for the day.


it’s a cool clear wednesday morning here.  the sun is rising and the breeze calm.  simple and i were competing for space in our small bed all night…the puppy won.  so, after a not so great sleep i woke to this insane itching from gnat bites yesterday.  my wrists (the only really exposed area) were demanding some fingernail attention.  so far i’ve tried alcohol and later some vinegar neither of which provided any relief.  but, i do smell like a drunken salad.  i had a great meal planned for last night.  mr. coopers sausage, rice, beans and cornbread.  everything was great except i forgot the beans that i’d prepared at home.  they were still in the amazing gosun cooler when i called my mates (jake and clancy) to the table.  the ever observant clancy mentioned the missing beans.  well, with great fanfare i went to the cooler, produced  cold beans and announced that we were trying a new recipe and the cold beans were being served over hot rice.  somehow i don’t think my showmanship worked, however, my very polite guests didn’t complain and ate cold beans.

simple has been amazingly cool about this trip.  sure, she will bark at passing dogs leading their humans around, but none of that going crazy stuff from our past trips.  she’s been quite pleasant actually and adapted to being with my human friends without me.  she appears to be quite comfortable in the trailer even when left alone for short periods.  i feel she’s well on her way to becoming a great camping dog.  and that’s a good thing in light of things to come.  we have the opportunity to spend a good portion of our summer in vermont.  the opportunity to host at molly stark state park campground in southern vermont exists.  another small facility (twenty four sites) with managers who live there.  they’re very pleasant people and friends of my daughter bonnie and that’s how the gig opened up.  i realize that i’d decided to sorta give up on the hosting thing when i “retired” from buck hall.  however, when presented with the possibility of spending the summer in the mountains of vermont instead of remaining in famously hot (and wickedly humid) columbia, sc it was a no brainer, right?  all the application paperwork has been completed and the required background checks submitted and approved (ha! fooled them again) so…unless this pandemic thing gets in the way, we’ll be heading north in early may.  stay tuned for updates. 

speaking of that pandemic thing…i’ve made a concentrated effort to ignore news of it so far this trip.  i’ve no notion of the situation currently.  for all i know, it’s gone or we all doomed.  there’s not a lot i can do in either case but i can avoid the stress of fretting over the situation and maximize the pleasure of living in the now here.

more impact from the pandemic….the camp host reported today that there’s a chance the campground may close due to health concerns.  a decision on that may be as early as tomorrow.  and here i was seriously considering staying longer than the end of the week if my site was available.  my pals and i decided today would be a good time to dine out for lunch.  little did we know of the governor’s order for all restaurants in the state to close their dining rooms.  we could however order take out from graham’s in mcclellanville and we did.  no, it wasn’t a good in it’s styrofoam box but what can you expect during such perilous times.  there’s still some levity however…a young man just sped past our site on a unicycle with a little dog on a leash doing his best to stay out front and causing me to smile.

friday…me and my mates had a meeting last night to discuss the situation here.  it was a casual meeting.  with so many cancelations for reservations (as per the camp host) there was the possibility of an opportunity to stay a bit longer.  we all pretty much came to the conclusion that what with all the rumors of closing the park we’d be best just to head back toward home.  and that’s exactly what we did.  we were all up and breaking camp early this morning.  i lost the race to the dump station and was waiting for a while for my turn.  i couldn’t help thinking what a nightmare it would have been if everyone was trying to lighten their load before hitting the road at the same time.  “dump fest” indeed.

one high point of this mini adventure was a visit by a couple of “gnome groupies”.  “trailblazer” (his screen name on the casita forum) and his lovely wife showed up for our first face to face meeting.  it’s fun to finally meet someone from your digital persona in real life.

so…another one’s in the record books.  our next adventure will most likely be hosting in vermont.  the gnome, simple and i all have our fingers crossed that the plague will be a memory by then and we’ll be able to enjoy a cool summer.  stay tuned….

the gnome, simple and your intrepid traveler…


update saturday afternoon:  it was officially announced that francis marion national forest had been closed.  whew!

devil’s fork campground

                           a winter trip to south carolina’s hills

day one…

it’s februrary tenth and we’re finally in the woods again!  specifically at devil’s fork state park  in the northwestern part of the state on lake jocassee just off of the cherokee scenic highway not far from the town of salem, sc.  google can tell you all about it.  no matter what they say it’s a damned hard place to find.  we did great the first hundred or so miles (of about a hundred fifty total).  after that things got a little weird.  first there was a ten buck toll to travel about twenty miles on a deserted freeway (tolls are not something southerners are accustomed to).  then when we got on the two lane roads our gps went wonky.  damned thing took me up a small road that proved to be closed after only a quarter mile or so.  it was indeed a small road with deep culverts on each side.  well, nothing to do but back out.  backing out with a trailer is not on my list of fun things to do.  i tried a couple of times to turn the rig around to no avail.  then, after a stellar display of my backing up skills (not!) i finally got back to the   spot where we’d turned.  this was a somewhat busy two lane with limited view of traffic.  my technique   was basically to close my eyes and go for it with emergency flashers on.  it worked, but i wouldn’t recommend you try this.  after that misadventure i foolishly followed a road sign toward what turned out to be another state park.  well, even tho it was great to get directions to the park i was looking for, that visit resulted in another difficult turn around event.  not as severe as the first, but time consuming.  following those good ole’ boys directions i finally arrived at devil’s fork.  i got checked in and a map to our site.  it only took two laps around the circle to locate site number thirty eight.  did i mention that all this was taking place in a driving rain storm?  well, it was.  and yeah, the whole setting up thing was more than moist.  so, here we are.  still raining but we’re hooked up to water and electricity which means heat and bathroom facilities.  both make for happy campers.

not long after we were set up and i was about to relax simple started making her “take me out noises”.  noises that you can’t really ignore.  so…back out into the wet.  now simple is very particular regarding her spots to relieve herself.  finding her place took longer that i would have cared for.  that spot was finally found and we returned to the trailer.  then the puppy made it clear that another trip into the wet was required.  another lengthly stroll in the rain.  that need satiated we came back again to the warm, dry cabin. 

so…here we are.  sitting in the dark with that soothing sound of rain falling on the fiberglass roof.  finally!  i treated myself with a cup (or two) of bourbon coffee.  the puppy is curled nose to toes and npr is providing the soundtrack.  all’s well that ends well.  we’ll talk more tomorrow….



tuesday here at devil’s fork.  last night we went to bed with raindrops pelting the fiberglass roof.  that soundtrack continued thru the night and greeted us when we woke.  simple slept in while i drank coffee listening to the rain in the early darkness.  at first light (there wasn’t much) the puppy let me know it was time for her to go outdoors.  our first trip out was nothing but wet and none of it came from simple’s bladder.  we both returned to the trailer frustrated with the lack of success.  wasn’t long before i heard to “take me out” song so we did it again…same results.  well, there wound up being five (maybe six) trips out into the monsoon before her bladder and bowels were emptied.  needless to say we spent a very moist morning.  i love the smell of wet dog in the morning.

around midday the rain stopped.  the clouds didn’t really go away but at least they weren’t emptying their buckets on us any longer.  finally a chance to get out and walk about a bit.  that improved simple’s outlook a bit but, she really wants to run.  i’d chance a run in with the rangers if i was sure she wouldn’t go off and get lost…she’s still very much a puppy.

as usual there’s some new stuff in our gear arsenal.  one is a pretty big deal.  a new truck!  at over two hundred thousand miles the mighty nissan was beginning to act her age.  that was a great truck that never failed to deliver whatever i asked and i didn’t feel like pressing my luck.  all things considered i could see no reason to change.  so, i now have the mighty nissan two.  exactly like the original except it has four doors and a proper back seat.  that back area with the seats folded out of the way is simple’s space.  equipped with a large plush bed of furniture pad and a sleeping bag.  she seems to appreciate the comfort.  i chose to get an eight foot bed (that’s truck talk for the box in the back).  the first nissan had the same size bed and i wasn’t interested in loosing that precious storage space and i’m able to use the topper (that’s more truck talk for the enclosure over the bed) i’d installed on the other truck.  you know, the thing that makes it look like an ambulance.  number two is a couple feet longer than number one.  i only notice that increased length when i’m in a grocery parking lot.  this is our first trip with the new and improved tow vehicle.  so far i’m satisfied.  a new tow vehicle inspired me to improve the storage system under that topper.  now there’s all new plastic  boxes (two sizes) that stack neatly and securely and generally work better that the hodge-podge of boxes i’d accumulated over the years.  and yes, it is definitely my ocd in overdrive.  the all electric fridge i installed last summer is working wonderfully.  the days of dealing with the inconsistent behavior of the original unit is fading into just a bad memory.  thank goodness…

we met and chatted with a couple of our neighbors.  well, all of our neighbors since we have only two.    one an older guy who’s been forced into retirement by illness and just purchased his first rv.  a mid size motorhome and this was his maiden voyage. our other fellow camper is a young guy who gave up a career at microsoft, purchased a ford transit van, put in some cabinets and a bed and set out about five months ago to see america with his girlfriend.  her visa ran out and she had to return to canada.  he’ll travel a bit longer before moving to vancouver. 


day three…




wednesday at devil’s fork.  a cloudy, cool (verging on slightly cold) with little or no breeze and for a change no rain.  there is a fog hugging around the lake.  peacefully quiet.  we did the many trip outside thing agains this morning with about the same results.  dry runs… when finally there is a fruitful event the puppy and i rejoice!  it’s a shame we don’t have an audience for our happy dances.


after breakfast we set out on a leisurely walk about to find a trash receptacle and just poke around a bit.  stopping for a chat with the guy out on his first adventure with his new used motorhome.  we were joined by a new guy from texas who travels and works out of his big trailer.  his rig is a “toy hauler” and his toy is a big honkin’ harley that has it’s own room.  his work involves driving remote submarines around the bottom of lakes (“aquatic drones”?).  i’m not sure why this needs to be done but it seems it would be kinda fun to get paid to do that.  both of these men were chronic talkers.  they took turns trying to talk about one thing until the other saw a opportunity to use his voice to go right back to what he was talking about before the other guy started….i didn’t have much to say and before too long simple and i moved on.   

all this strenuous activity simple and i were ready for an afternoon nap. 


day four…

thursday morning after one hell of a storm sometime after midnight.  shortly after i fell back asleep my slumber was interrupted yet again by a puppy vomiting in our bed.  i can tell you this is not a pleasant way to wake up.  lots of paper towels and a bit of water took care of the mess and then i could rearrange simple’s blanket so the wet spot wasn’t where she sleeps.  it wasn’t long after that that we could both return to our dreams. 

when next we woke it was still raining with serious winds blowing.  as the morning progressed things gradually improved.  now it’s totally beautiful.  blue skies with white puffy clouds.  see…if you wait long enough the camping gods will smile.

this will most likely be the last entry for this adventure.  the plan is to break camp early and head home tomorrow.  even with the inclement weather i feel this trip was a success.  the puppy grows more comfortable and confident with each trip out.  she’s on her way to becoming a true traveling dog.  there’s a trip to buck hall campground scheduled for the middle of march.  and…there is the possibility of a grand tour this summer.  there’s still some details to be worked out but, it’s beginning to look like a seriously fun adventure so stay tuned.

and thanks for checking in….

the gnome (who remained subdued this trip, the puppy simple and your humble wanderer 

mid summer trip to lake thurmond



day one…

sunday evening and here we are at petersburg campground near appling, georgia.  the campground is on sperm thurmond lake (or clark’s hill if you live in georgia).  the lake separates the states and the folks in georgia don’t think as kindly toward mr. thurmond as those in south carolina.  it’s a corps of engineers facility and a really nice park.  big sites with ample space between and provide water and electric.  no sewer but, there’s a dump station.  not too bad for twelve bucks a night.

there’s some big news with the roaming gnome.  we have a new traveling companion.  she’s a nine month old catahoula hound. and as you can see modesty is of little concern for her.  these critters are the state dog of louisiana where they’re put to work herding.  hogs (yes, hogs) and cattle are what they herd.  she found her way into my life as a result of  one of those “these pets are available at your local pound” ad on the facebook.  it was love at first sight, for me anyway, and she reciprocated when i found her in her pen.  her name is “simple”.  this came from her human who acquired her as a very young puppy.  his intention was to train her to hunt.  raccoons was his prey of choice.  well this puppy wasn’t interested in chasing any coons, not that i could blame her…quite the contrary i took it as a sign of higher intelligence.  so, the hunter decided to give up on her and take her to the pound.  one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  when the guy dropped her off he told the pound people “that dog won’t hunt a coon…she’s simple”.  the ladies at the pound found this very amusing and named her simple.  on my drive to the animal control center i was wracking my brain to come up with a name.  after my arrival and introduction it was apparent that she already had a name.  i’m not one to fly in the face of serendipity.  so, her name is/was simple.  my daughter belle has a puppy named trouble so perhaps there’s a connection there.  i suspect that there was little or no affection and certainly no love in her life with the hunter guy.  she has responded to me amazingly.  we were bonded before bedtime that first day and she’s become my shadow.  at my feet constantly nipping at my heels to make me take the path she’s picked out.  if you can’t tell…i’m smitten with this puppy.  and a puppy she is…not house broken nor crate trained.  i’d forgotten the joys of puppy parenthood.  it can be trying but, i’m willing to deal with it.  and yes, this is her first camping trip.  so far she’s adapting well.  quietly sleeping at my feet as i peck on this keypad.  i’ve missed this companionship.


today started early, very early.  four am!  simple decided we should wake then.  i escorted her to the back yard hoping she might empty her bladder and allow us to get back to sleep.  that was not her plan and a herding dog is not to be argued with.  so, i made a pot of strong coffee and waited for the sun to peek out and we could take our morning walk.  yeah, the puppy won that one.  then i set about finishing the hook up and making ready to hit the road.  everything went well until i disconnected from shore power (that’s camper speak for being plugged in to electricity) and the fridge didn’t seem to want to operate on twelve volts.  now this is my brand new fridge i installed to get away from that dismal excuse for a fridge that was original equipment with the casita.  needless to say i was more than a bit stressed.  i poked and prodded the wiring and really couldn’t find a problem.  well, after a half hour or so of panic things seemed to be working so we hit the road.  the wonderful thing of all this was the fridge temperature remained at mid thirties in nearly one hundred degrees with high humidity ambient conditions.  that’s a first for the little house.

and here i sit wishing i could put the sun on high speed as it heads toward the horizon.  i’m feeling like that’s another one i’ll loose today and i’ll be asleep before darkness falls.  i’m going to join simple on the bed and read for at least ten or fifteen minutes. 

good night.


day two…

monday morning here at the petersburg campground.  we slept well last night with the air conditioner keeping us cool.  so cool, in fact, i had to slip inside the rv superbag (more on that product later).  at some point during the dark it rained.  a gentle rain but enough to add that patter of water drops of the casita’s roof.  simple was a bit curious about that sound .  the first clue was me waking to the puppy sitting up staring at the ceiling.  she remained calm and all it took was a little love and belly rubbing to put her back in slumber land where we remained until five thirty or so.  that was when i discovered i’d failed to bring along the thermos.  now that item is essential to making our coffee.  the water heated in a small coffee pot and then fresh ground beans are dripped thru a cone filter into the missing thermos. this called for some innovation.  now we’re heating the water in a saucepan and dripping that thru the filter atop of the pot.  the pot remains heated atop of my simmer mat on the stove.  camping requires adaptation.  that, i suppose, is a camping tip.

by seven thirty i’d had a few cups of delicious bourbon flavored coffee, simple had consumed her morning meal and we’d taken a walk around circle c.  now it’s time for one of those over rated showers and then i’ll feed myself.

later that same day…simple and i walked for a while with our friends the browns and elvis their dog.  the puppies (well, elvis is a fifteen year old puppy) are getting along famously.  elvis has a lot of patience and basically ignores simple’s attempts to engage in puppy play. and speaking of puppy play, simple has discovered how much fun it is to play tug of war when she’s on the leash.  she plays for keeps and i’m amazed at her strength.  that game seriously impedes my photographic efforts.  due to her chewing fetish i’m reluctant to leave her unsupervised in the trailer.  in such a small space it wouldn’t take her long to wreak havoc in the cabin. camera stability is critically compromised with an insanely energetic forty pound herding dog tugging on her lead.  i do believe that living in such close quarters is having a positive effect on my efforts to house train her.  not a single “accident” so far.  let’s hope this experience helps at home as well. 

did i mention that it’s hot, very hot, here on lake thurmond?  how’s mid nineties with damned near one hundred percent humility sound?  whew!  our outside activities are, out of necessity, brief.  i’m happy to report that the casita’s air conditioner is performing exceptionally.  we’re at seventy four degrees in here and it’s dry air.  speaking of temperatures the new fridge is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do.  maintaining mid thirties in this tropic summer situation is so very satisfying.  could it be that i’ve lost the major complaint pervasive in my wanderings?  this heat has only reinforced my aversion to roaming in the summer.  this trip was intended to be a test of both the new fridge and they puppy’s reaction to living the the trailer.  so far both seem to be very positive.


day 3…

it’s a cloudy wednesday here on the banks of sperm thrumond lake.  i think it rained off and on thru the dark time.  last evening the brown’s treated me to hot dogs for supper.  being in their rather large trailer made me feel as if i was in an urban apartment.  now, it’s not a huge trailer at twenty six feet long but it does have a slide out in the dining area and that adds to the impression of being huge. soon after simple and i arrived she simply peed on elvis’ bed.  the was the first “oops” of this adventure.  i suppose that was at least partially my fault.  rain was falling and my desire to remain somewhat dry overruled my inclination to allow the puppy to empty her bladder.  i’m learning along with her.

this morning it was my turn to treat in the food arena.  i created my famous and ever popular french toast and crispy bacon.  the fare was well received with no leftovers.  the toast was baked in my baby breville oven and the bacon was fried in their electric pan.  we enjoyed this breakfast in their trailer so everyone would have a place to sit and the puppies weren’t on top of each other.  we remained indoors chatting and telling tales  until noon when it was time to walk a bit and then retire to the little house to escape the brutal heat…did i mention it’s quite hot here?

while i was cooking simple found several targets for her chewing fetish.  she destroyed a sponge and plastic dish washing device, ate a portion of the lid to one of my collapsable bowls and removed several inches of the zipper on the rv super bag.  yeah, the one that i had to send back to the company that makes them twice (at seventy five bucks each time for shipping costs).  that trick caused me to become a bit unhinged and i’m afraid that i spoke rather harshly to the poor puppy who was simply being a puppy.  i recovered and spent some quality time being apologetic.  she seemed to accept my overtures of remorse.

and while we’re on the subject of that rv super bag… first of all let me say that it’s a great product.  a sleeping bag that has a light weight summer side and a heavier topping on the other side for use in colder weather.  it accepts custom fitted cotton sheets (i upgraded to three hundred thread count) that are held in place by velcro around the edges.  very clever, huh?  well, i purchased this thing in quartzsite, arizona at the giant rv show.  it was not an impulse purchase as i’d been interested in one for quite a while.  i opted for a single size since (ha!) traveling solo with a small casita “double” bed it seemed a perfect match.  well, there was something amiss from the get go.  i couldn’t make the sheets fit and there seemed to be a lot of extra bag on my small bed.  i figured it was my lack of experience with the product causing this issue.  then on the way home i found the zipper on one side was missing a tooth or two and wouldn’t zip.  back at home i called the company to discuss the zipper issue and spoke with the most insipid man i’ve ever had the displeasure of dealing with.  when confronted with my zipper issue this guy responded by telling me it was my fault because i obviously didn’t know how to operate a zipper.  now i’ve worn big boy britches for a long while and nearly all of them were equipped with zippers and seldom seemed to have serious issues operating that closing mechanism.  he reluctantly agreed to allow me to return the bag for his evaluation.  a month later the bag was returned (with a new zipper) and guess what…i had no problems zipping and unzipping.  but i did have one fitting the sheets.  back at home i had room to spread the bag out to see what i could do to make things work.  i put it on top of my queen size bed and it covered from end to end and side to side.  the sheets didn’t.  it was obvious i had a queen size bag.  another call to mr. friendly only to be told that it wasn’t his problem if i bought the wrong size product.  fortunately i’d retained the sales slip which indicated that i actually did pay for a single size and was given what was obviously a queen size.  that piece of evidence sorta took him by surprise and he told me to ship it back to him.  my suggestion that he foot the bill for shipping fell on deaf ears.  he wouldn’t simply send me what i’d purchased and insisted on “remanufacturing” the thing.  so, another trip to the ups store and another seventy five buck shipping charge was required.  then i politely suggested that perhaps he could include a spare set of sheets with the modified bag to offset all the shipping costs i’d incurred with this ordeal.  he never responded to this and i held little hope for satisfaction.  well, another month later i got the thing back without spare sheets.  i seriously considered doing everything i could to bring some misery to his life, but quite frankly was fed up with dealing with this guy who had obviously slept thru the classes on customer relations when attending sleeping bag sales school.  and yes, that is the very bag that simple ate the zipper of.  i’ll be damned if i’ll go back to this guy for repairs and if i have to i’ll use safety pins for closure or perhaps duct tape?  so, if you’re considering buying this product (which is a good one) be very careful.  rant over.


day 4…

another overcast muggy morning on the lake.  simple and i were up before dawn and after a quick trip outside for the puppy to relieve herself i settled in for some serious coffee drinking.  shortly after sunrise simple enjoyed her breakfast and then a longer walk in the quiet morning that let her enjoy her morning dump.  this has become a regular morning pattern.  i’m hopeful that we can take that pattern home with us. 

after that second walk i had my breakfast.  a couple of frozen waffles heated in the little oven and topped with peanut butter and sliced bananas garnished with honey.  having that little freezer in the fridge is so cool.  it sure opens up the culinary delights available.  delights that were impossible with that old poor excuse for a fridge.  will i ever cease to complain about the fridge that was?  after the morning meal i showered and even put on clean clothes.  my friends will most likely appreciate the clean new me.

one new gizmo on this trip is a pair of walkie talkies.  now i sorta thought they’d be particularly useful  when traveling and camping with others.  in reality they’ve proven to be not so great.  mostly they were put into service just because they were a novelty newly available.  now, i didn’t actually spend money for these radios since i cashed in some credit card points to “pay” for them.  perhaps on a longer trip they’ll be handy to have.  if not, they may very well wind up on craig’s list. 

the photographic opportunities here are pretty limited.  trees, empty campsites and a few glimpses of the lake are pretty much all that are available.  and even those meager chances for decisive moments are made more difficult with the blurry inducing effects of simple’s tugging on her lead.  i’m certain that someday that puppy will become an able photo assistant (a camera caddy?).

last evening, acting out of curiosity, i gave netflix a try.  with at most two bars on my phone i didn’t expect much.  well, the surprising results allowed me to view a couple of episodes of one of my current favorite dramas “mindhunter”.  it’s a rather gruesome tale of the fbi’s first attempts to profile serial killers.  it’s a docudrama that chronicles the origins of the behavioral analysis unit of the top cops.  and…according to this series, gave birth to the term “unsub” (unknown subject) used so often in the series “criminal minds” which is another of my favs.  yeah, i watch a lot of cop shows on the box. 

day 5 and beyond…

friday morning here at petersburg campground.  it seems that momma nature is in a bit of a rut.  playing the same tune every morning…cloudy, hot & muggy (concert for perspiration in be flat majorly). it’s not an uncommon tune in the south east summer.  just to keep the repetition theme flowing simple and i performed our well rehearsed morning dance.  a quick trip outdoors before sunrise, coffee consumption (sans bourbon), breakfast for the puppy, a bit of wandering on the www and then our walk around.

this being our last day in these woods i then set about making ready for departure.  about half way thru the unhooking and hooking stuff i was interrupted by a nice guy on a bicycle wanting to talk casita.  it had to happen, right?  i’m always eager to discuss the merits of the little house and this morning it was especially welcome to have a half hour to allow some perspiration evaporation.  a retired guy traveling about in a van full time.  he’d decided it would be nice to move upstream a bit to have more in the amenities department.  i gave him the grand tour and answered all his questions and gave him some of my expert opinions on his decision.  i expect he’ll be visiting rice, texas before long. 

on the way out of the campground we stopped by the dumpsters and the dump station to shed all of our waste.  then we were on the road.  i let thomas guide us on the fastest route which was about thirty miles on two lane blacktop toward augusta and then onto the twenty.  that freeway takes us to within three miles from the dude ranch.  we were in the driveway by about one in the afternoon.  sad to say we’d not driven out of the the heat and humidity.  i made the prudent decision to unpack only the necessary stuff and postpone a full docking until the “cool” of the morning.  every time i try to do that it results in a dozen or two subsequent trips for forgotten essentials.  fatigue and heat do not make for clear thinking.

so anyway, we’re back at the ranch.  i’d say this trip was a huge success.  the new fridge performed flawlessly and the temperature was held constantly in the mid thirties and kept my biscuits and waffles frozen.  what more can one ask of a fridge?  simple adapted to the confines of the little house extremely well and i sure enjoyed what she added to the experience.   those were the primary excuses for the trip so i’m happy.  the puppy is pretty darned tired as am i. 

thanks for riding along on this brief adventure…



the gnome (who spent all his time hiding from the oppressive heat)

simple the puppy

and your intrepid vagabond


early spring on the nc coast


yeah, i know.  you’d think that with a six thousand mile trip still quite fresh in my memory would temper my urges to travel and live in the casita.  but no, and i find myself in the croaton national forest on the coast of north carolina.  specifically we’re in the cedar point campground on loop a and campsite seven in case you care to drop by.  this was not a whim trip.  six months ago i’d decided that it would be great fun to revisit buck hall as a guest and try to make life difficult for the camp host.  actually it was to be a sentimental trip back to a place i’m very fond of.  anyway, that was the plan. a plan that came to a screeching halt with a cancellation of my booking due to campground closure brought on by a total lack of water.  well, these plans were made with my good friends clancy and jake both of whom have brand new trailers and were very receptive to a trip.  so…clancy came up with this alternative and i’m always ready for an adventure so here we are.  we’re just oustide of the city of cedar point, north carolina.  very near the camp lejeune marine base which i can only assume is the source of some very noisy helicopters overhead.  it is however, a very nice campground.  small, well spaced sites and flat places to park the rig.  there’s electricity service but no water.  my site has a communal water source conveniently located next to my driveway.  not a bad arrangement.  there’s a good public radio station with contemporary music that i don’t know but it sounds great.  there’s a great signal from verizon and six or so over the air television choices. 

the drive of a bit over two hundred fifty miles was a long one.  several freeways and a road that was a freeway wanna be.  those took us to us highway seventeen and thru a lot of cities.  thirty five miles per hour cities.  the final forty miles took forever.  adding to the stress of all that driving was that stupid tire pressure warning light on my dashboard.  the damned thing has been doing it’s glowing orange warning every now and then since i’ve owned the truck.  my reaction early on was to, well, panic.  pulling over to check my tire pressure and never discovering a problem.  well, that reaction has tempered over the years and now i generally ignore it.  today it was overactive.  giving me several warnings and then one that lasted longer (in my mind) than ever before.  i don’t need to tell you that this triggered some serious anxiety.  not only was i keeping an eye out  for a spot to stop for some air pressure checking i was planning for the impending disaster of a dangerous tire incident.  then the light went away just like always.  i knew that dreadful device had a history of “crying wolf”  but….

that’s it…i’m tired and am heading the the super bag. 


it’s friday morning on the coast of north carolina (and a lot of other places i would assume).  lovely spring weather.  why, the temperature swing yesterday was practically nonexistent.  mid sixties during the day and low sixties during dark.  dry and mostly clear skies…what more could you ask for?

yesterday the final member of our trio of camping geezers arrived.  clancy, jake and your interpid traveler.  both jake and clancy are on their maiden camping trips.  now both of them traveled a long distance getting home after they acquired their new memory makers but this is the first time out from home base.  there’s a difference.  they’ve both chosen “big rigs” (well, compared to mine) and i’ve toured both.  they are very spacious and equipped with four season accoutrement.  double pane windows, insulated holding tanks and a bevy of other things that make for comfort in weather extremes.  while i do envy their luxuries i’m not tempted to swim upstream in the creek of change.  my little rig suites me fine.  the one bone of contention being the fridge.  that’s going to change soon.  as i sit here pecking on the keypad there’s a new unit headed my way.  a fridge that requires twelve volts or hundred twenty volts (shore power) to keep things cold.  no gas!  i’ve always had a nagging distrust of the act of burning propane to make cold.  my experience with that is evidence of the viability of that distrust.  you can expect to read all about the results of this grand experiment right here.

tonight we dined at a local seafood eatery for a meal of fried.  fish, shrimps, and hush puppies.  i did make an attempt toward “healthy” by ordering a baked potato.  all of the more than ample servings were quite good.  after that it was time for some rv super bag slumber.


nearly all of yesterday was spent sitting around in the clam with my pals telling camping (and other) stories…most of them were at least partially true.  the day flew by.  around dark time we dined on clancy’s delicious chili while continuing our banter until we felt the need to recline and headed to our respective trailers (i had the shortest walk).  that was our friday…how was yours?

in addition to my shampoo i’ve forgotten the battery charger for my camera.  so, i’ll be forced to fall back on my phone for images and steal some shampoo from someone.


well, i’d written a great report of out trip to emerald isle beach however, that report was eaten by the cyber beast that lives in this laptop.  so, i’ll just post some images from there and you readers will be left to imagine the things we did.


tuesday morning and our last day here in north carolina.  i’ve discovered that having pals around to hang with has seriously limited my reportage output.  now, i’m not complaining…quite the contrary since having folks around to interact with is a pleasure.  just one i’m not accustomed to.  sunday we made the drive out to look at the atlantic ocean.  that trip took us to emerald isle,north carolina.  a place that my kids and i, along with a lot of friends, spent the y2k new years event.  that was most likely the biggest non event ever.  the world didn’t end and there was still money in my bank account (altho it remained meager).  the anticipation, however, had just a bit of an edge.

yesterday we enjoyed sausage biscuits for the morning meal.  jake and i watched clancy hook up for departure and as soon as he left began wondering what we were going to do for supper since the chef had left.  his cheerful presence as well as his culinary talents left a bit of hole in the trio.  jake rose to the occasion with grilled hamburgers accompanied with pork and beans.   the burgers were tasty and those beans reintroduced me to a treat that i’d long ago given up.  they’re really pretty darned good.

between the biscuits and the burgers i spent  some time prepping for departure by packing up the clam and a some other stuff so today the remaining packing will be less of a chore.  it’s been a great week here in north carolina.  a nice campground and pleasant weather spent with old friends who were enjoying their maiden adventure with new rigs.  i, of course, was the resident “expert” with my nine year old rig which was by far the smallest.  i must admit that those larger trailers are great with all that additional space for dining and hanging out indoors…but, i was always glad to retreat to my little house and the comforts it provides.  different strokes for different folks.

this will most likely be my last post from this adventure.  i’m hoping to move the blog to a new site and that may take a while.  hopefully there will be a “new and improved” version for you faithful readers soon….


the gnome’s new home

ok…here we go with the new web presence for our adventures. the purpose of this post is to verify that i have sufficient knowledge about this wordpress application to make it work. so…there will be some words and a few photos. you readers with a bit of memory left will recognize the images from wayback past adventures.

the blog will have a new address at asthegnomeroams.com so you’ll want to bookmark this page to keep us with us.  i would expect that as i become more adept with the software (any helpful tips will be appreciated) the look here will change.  but, never fear the same thought provoking words as i relate our tales will be ever present.

so… stay tuned.  

right now i’m a bit overwhelmed with catching up on much needed maintenance and some changes here at the dude ranch.  i’m certain that i’ll loose my enthusiasm for that sort of stuff before long and the irresistible urge to hit the road will return.  i can tell you that the trip to alaska has been postponed.  my would be travel companions are going ahead without me.  it saddens me to know i’m missing that journey however, i’m afraid that is was too close behind that recent winter trip west.  an experienced vagabond knows his limits and i felt taking off for another multi month trip was not in the cards.  


i know, i’m rambling.  so i think i’ll bring this test to a close and see if i can figure out how to publish it.