A gold star sunrise

sunrise from Merritt Island

Sunrise from Merritt Island

After months of trying, I can rattle off the names of all fifty states now. (4 As, Ws, and Is; 8 Ms and Ns; and I never forget the Ss or the single P any more). At one point, while driving, I was imagining a color-coded map, with the few states I haven’t visited in red, the ones that I’ve only driven through in orange, the ones that I’ve lived in purple, the ones where I’ve spent more than a month in blue. The vast majority of the map would be yellow and green, signifying time spent of more than a night, less than a month.

I think that map, though, needs something like stars, too, for how beautiful a state is, how much I love it. Florida — despite all of its craziness, the news stories that start “only in Florida,” the ways in which it is really weird — would get a gold star, because say what you will about Florida, sunrise here is spectacular.

It feels good to be home.

The discomfort of change

People in Florida keep asking me how much longer I’m going to keep traveling. It’s a legitimate question, I think. I’ve certainly been wondering about the answer myself. But I don’t know. Being back in Florida definitely feels like coming home, more than any other state, which is not so much what I would have expected. I lived in California for longer than I lived in Florida, and I spent my entire childhood visiting Pennsylvania. New York is the state where I’ve lived the longest. But Florida feels comfortable, Florida feels easy.

Sort of.

I also almost cried yesterday when the grocery store didn’t have the dog food I wanted. It was my grocery store, a home store for me. Not the one that I went to most often when I lived here, but one that I went to often enough that it should have felt familiar. But it didn’t. I had to hunt for the dog food and then it wasn’t there. Change happens. And a grocery store changing brands, re-organizing aisles, that is not the sort of change that should make one want to cry.

I think, though, that navigating unfamiliar grocery stores has turned into one of the most exhausting elements of a life of continual travel for me. I can remember in my first month on the road loving the adventure of a new store. Sometimes I still do. Often I still do!

But then there are the days when all I want is to get in and get out. I don’t want an adventure, I just want to get a need met as quickly as possible so I can get back to whatever I am doing that is more interesting to me. Yesterday it was to get on the road so that I could come down to Merritt Island and write with my friend, Lynda. I didn’t want to waste hours hunting for the right sort of dog food.

As it happens, I didn’t. I bought some strange canned food, ridiculously expensive and radiating organic healthiness, so that I could get moving, and today B and I are paying the price. Dogs don’t react well to abrupt changes in food, usually. Poor B. On top of the ear infections and the wheezing, he didn’t need an upset tummy. He’ll be okay, though. I also bought ingredients to make the homemade food that he likes, so if I can’t find the right food today, he’ll get to have chicken and sweet potatoes for dinner and he’ll be delighted.

Meanwhile, my travel plans for the next six weeks or so involve nothing new: familiar driveways, a couple of familiar state parks, lots of time spent with people I love. At the end of it, after the holidays, I think I’ll have a better sense of whether I’m tired of traveling and really need to figure out where I can settle down for a while or whether I’m eager to get back on the road. Maybe, like right now, both will still appeal.

I’m probably not going to spend a lot of time blogging, either, because even though I know that these memories — of time spent well, of friends and people and good conversations, of interesting meals and holidays — will be as important to me in the future as any campground review ever, well, I’d rather be spending my writing energy on Grace and my life energy on living.

That said, here’s a story I want to remember: hanging out with C and her son, A, in her back porch, talking about media mothers and C’s resemblance to Joyce on Stranger Things.

I texted R.

Me: What media mom would remind you of me? (Am conversing with C and her son)

The next day

R: No idea. Sorry!
Me: (Sad emoji)
Me: I shall choose to believe that is because I am unique and original.
R: Precisely!
R: You could also construe that as representative of the fact that good parents are only interesting in fiction if they die.
R: (Shrug emoji)
Me: … (Dustin’s mom from Stranger Things) is personally my take.
Me: and since you haven’t watched Stranger Things that doesn’t mean much
R: I have
R: all of it
Me: Oh! Well, then, really, Dustin’s mom?
R: Dustin’s mom is pretty close
Me: (Blushing smile emoji)

For anyone who hasn’t watched Stranger Things, S2, Dustin’s mom is gullible, easily manipulated by her son, but clearly dotes on him. He makes her laugh and she thinks he’s awesome. I looked for the internet’s take on her and the only articles I found described her as a “lovable helicopter mom” and “lacked much definition beyond her status as a loving mom.” Eh, not the perfect descriptions, but as media moms go, I’m very pleased that R sees the resemblance.

And I really shouldn’t have let myself fall into the internet rabbit hole that is articles on Stranger Things, because I could be writing right now. Or doing laundry or hunting for dog food or even hanging out with L, who’s working away at her kitchen table while I’m sitting on her porch!

Lazy days

Long drives make me lazy. Or maybe just tired. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I drove from Williamsburg to Florida. Ahead of time, I imagined that once I got here, I would immediately begin NaNoWriMo levels of writing productivity, in between visiting and catching up with all my local family and friends, plus taking care of some van jobs, like fixing the bathroom door, replacing the air-conditioner cover, scrubbing off the dead bugs, and so on.

In reality, I’ve been reading and listening to music and eating too much sugar and enjoying being mellow in a very comfortable driveway.

sunset

Last night’s sunset

In fact, I’ve been so lazy that in my Streaks app, I broke all my streaks except two: writing 1000 words every morning and writing 2 blog posts/week. And yeah, this blog post is just so I don’t break that streak. I would actually much rather be napping.

Williamsburg Thousand Trails RV park

Out of one window, I am watching my neighbor do something mysterious with their sewer hose — ah, they were just packing up, actually. And out of the other window, I can see the dumpsters. So not much choice for a view in this campground. But that said, I think this is the nicest Thousand Trails campground I’ve stayed in.

It’s typical of the Thousand Trails places — which, in general, does mean not really for me. There’s an indoor swimming pool, a jacuzzi, a basketball court, a great mini-golf course (I think the nicest campground mini-golf course I’ve seen), a game room with arcade games and pool tables, a camp store, an “adult lounge”, even a pond. And it’s big enough that it was very easy to take Zelda on a one-mile walk this morning.

And full hook-ups! I don’t usually look for full hook-ups or take advantage of them, but my black tank has been reading as 2/3 full for a couple of months now. That probably means something has gotten stuck, dried to the sides of the tank. I don’t consider it a big deal, but I’m glad for the opportunity to run lots of water and soap through the tank to try to clean it out. What I really need is a second hose so that I can use the black tank flush outlet without risking contaminating my drinking water hose, preferably one like the zero-G hose that squashes down flat so that it takes up less room. It’s been on my list of “things to get someday real soon” for about a year, but I seem to always wind up buying the cooking things off that list instead of the outside things. But there are so many things on that list — a grill that folds flat, a compact table, the Sumo Springs that everyone raves about… but realistically, the next time I buy something for the van, it’ll probably be a smaller induction frying pan. Ha.

Back to the campground: it’s so nice that this morning when walking the dog, I thought, “Hmm, maybe when I take M camping next year, I’ll bring her here.” And then I remembered my horrendous drive yesterday and thought, “Nope, not gonna happen.”

I have now driven Serenity in 44 states. Yep, 44 of them. (The missing: Delaware, Rhode Island, Michigan, North Dakota, Alaska, Hawaii.) And if there is a single place that I would really like to never drive through again, it’s Washington, DC.

It’s not that other places don’t have bad traffic: I used to commute through the Caldecott Tunnel before they opened the 4th bore, where multiple lanes of traffic merge and the lanes changed directions on a regular basis. Driving that route was always interesting. And Boston — well, yeah, Boston is just crazy. But Washington has some reasonably significant proportion of really bad drivers, people who don’t care that their recklessness messes everyone else up, and it makes driving there so unpleasant.

Here’s the difference between San Francisco Bay and DC drivers: once upon a time, I was on 24 approaching the Caldecott and cars were stopping, for no obvious reason. So I stopped, too, of course. I’m not sure how many lanes there are, maybe eight at the spot where I was? And all eight lanes of traffic stopped because there was a dog on the road. A couple people got out of their cars and corralled the dog and traffic resumed again and probably several hundred people who didn’t know what had happened sighed in relief that the delay had only lasted a few minutes. If that had happened in DC, some people would have slowed, others wouldn’t, there would have been an accident and the traffic congestion would have lasted an hour, minimum. And the dog would have died.

Anyway, I will stop whining about traffic now, but I’m taking a day off to do useful things like try to get the black tank cleaned out, write a blog post, work on Grace, answer my email, back up some files… hmm, I guess that’s all I really wanted to do. But tomorrow I start driving again. I’ll spend the night on the road and make it to Florida on Wednesday. I had such a nice week in PA that it was really hard to leave, but I’m looking forward to some time in Florida, too.

I’m already anticipating seeing all my writing friends who are doing NaNoWriMo, and spending lots and lots and lots of time writing with them. It is so past time to finish Grace, but this version has gone off in some interesting directions and honestly, I now have no idea where it’s going. sigh But it will get somewhere, I’m sure.

There’s a scene that I wrote last week that I suspect means more to me than it will to anyone else, but I reread it this morning and it literally made me tear up and then laugh. I obviously would consider that profoundly successful if it did the same for any other reader, but even if I’m the only person who gets it that way, I’m pretty sure I can count it as successful. And since I could be working on it now, time to get to it!

But to everyone working on NaNo — write, write, write! You can do it!

yellow raspberries

Raspberries bear fruit until the first frost so this morning’s breakfast included fresh raspberries, honey from P’s bees, and granola made by my SIL. I felt very, very lucky while I ate it.

Maintenance

me on top of the van

On top of Serenity, all covered with goo…

The day I brought Serenity home from the dealer, it rained. I drove her over to a friend’s house and was showing her off — my brand-new home! — and she was all wet. Inside, not outside. Not a pleasant discovery.

I promptly took her back to the dealer, of course, and asked that they please keep her under a roof until they could fix the leak. Whether rightfully or not, I attribute some of her later problems — the two times the awning died, the demented fan — to that first leak. Water’s not supposed to enter the roof.

The dealer said that they couldn’t replicate the leak, which seemed implausible, given how very much water had come in on that first day, but they decided it was the sealant around the fan and resealed it. A couple times since then, I have suspected water might be coming in, but the amount was small enough that I wasn’t sure. A wet spot on the cushion is always potentially attributable to B chewing on his feet or a careless splash from the sink.

But in West Virginia, there was really no doubt: water was coming in through the air-conditioner. The van’s no longer under warranty, so I wasn’t going to take it back to the dealer. Instead, I ordered some goo, my brother got out the ladder, and I climbed up and coated the area with sealant.

I have no idea whether my repair will actually be successful. The area that is most probable for a leak is hard to see and to get to, because there’s not a lot of room and the awning gets in the way. I didn’t want to put any weight on the awning or set the ladder up in the street which might have offered a better view, so I just squeezed a bunch of goo in there and hoped for the best. But I felt super accomplished when I was done. Woo-hoo, I climbed on the roof and did my own home repair!

Note to self: next time, braid your hair! It was blowing all over the place, which was not exactly convenient.

I also put air in the tires. Not for the first time, of course, but it was the first time it went smoothly. I’ve done it often enough now that I feel pretty competent. I actually remember what the icons mean on the air compressor which is so helpful!

This weekend, I’m hoping I can convince my brother to help me change the oil in the generator. Supposedly it’s an easy job. I’m not sure I will find it so. But if I do, I will feel very accomplished. Changing my own oil = major-league adulting, I think.

Best of October 2017

My October started in Cochita Lake, New Mexico. It included stays in 14 different places: two driveways, two parking lots and ten campgrounds, most of which were state parks. I traveled from New Mexico to Colorado to Kansas to Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, with — if you know your geography well! — a little time in Indiana that didn’t include a stay. I couldn’t tell you how long I was in Indiana because honestly, all the roads run together. The campgrounds, too.

I met some nice people along the way. Fellow Travato owners in a couple of campgrounds; neighbors who invited me to their fire in St. Louis; some helpful southerners with a great dog in Colorado; even a blog reader, her partner, and their adorable baby. (Hi, Kyla!) In general, I think I was more sociable than I often am, which is a good thing.

But — in what is beginning to look like a pattern — my “best of” wasn’t a sunrise or an amazing scenic landscape or even some great activity. It was time spent with family. I think, in fact, that it’s a tie, between a moment and a day. The moment was sitting at my aunt’s kitchen counter, reading my grandmother’s cookbook and laughing at the impossibility of ever recreating some of the recipes. What do you do with a recipe that calls for a package of dates or a five-cent envelope of yeast and includes no details beyond the ingredient list? And the day was yesterday, which included board games with my SIL, niece and nephew; grocery shopping with my brother; a lovely afternoon walk with the dogs and my niece; and a hot shower in a clean bathroom with no sense of hurry.

And some good writing! After a week of no progress on Grace, I finally managed to turn my stuck point into an opportunity, so I’m going to get back to it.

scenic vista at Trinidad Lake

The best view of the month was at Trinidad Lake State Park in Colorado, and probably that was the best hike, too.

Lake of Three Fires State Park image

The prettiest park, though, was Lake of Three Fires State Park, near Bedford, Iowa.

Wet, wet, wet West Virginia

Shortly after I last posted, I decided I was being silly. No, I didn’t love the campground I was in, but it was pouring rain and cold. Unplugging and packing up was going to be miserable. Plus, why drive in a torrential downpour if I didn’t have to? So I wandered up to the camp reception area and asked to stay another night.

Alas, my site was reserved. What? I’d been in a close to empty row, no one on either side of me. And it was a Monday morning! But someone online had decided that site #10 looked great (silly them) and it was indeed reserved. The guy behind the counter offered me another site — there were plenty available — but I figured since I was going to have to pack up anyway, I might as well get a few miles farther along the way.

Mistake #1.

I packed up and discovered for the first time that my waterproof windbreaker is more water-resistant than waterproof. Can’t blame LL Bean for that — it’s a windbreaker, not a raincoat — but by the time I was ready to go, I was soaked. I changed my clothes and left my wet blue jeans, wet fleece, wet windbreaker, and a wet towel, all hanging off the back of the passenger seat. That’s an important detail. If this was a mystery, it would be a clue. 🙂

The first accident I passed was a three car fender bender — car #1 was a little bummed, car #2 was sad, but probably fine, and car #3 — well, or driver #3 — was seriously annoyed as he waved traffic on. And definitely not injured. It was so recent that the emergency vehicles hadn’t arrived yet.

Soon after, I spotted the flashing lights, but headed in the wrong direction. That’s ’cause they weren’t going to accident #1; they were headed to accident #2, an overturned tanker truck, off the road at an exit. Ouch. I’m guessing he didn’t see the exit in time, hit the brakes, and slid right off. Or maybe he had to stop too fast because someone in front of him slammed on their brakes to get off at the exit and then sped merrily on their way.

I decided it was stupid to be driving in rain so heavy when I didn’t have to, so I got off at the next rest stop. Mistake #2? Or, maybe, lucky decision #1. I made myself some lunch, downloaded a book from the library, read for a while, started looking for a place to stay, found a campground about 45 minutes away. I’d been headed toward one that was about three hours away from my starting place but it seemed like a bad idea to keep driving as the rain poured down. The closer campground sounded unusual — it only had three sites — but it was free. And it was close. Close-ish, anyway.

So I got back on the road. In the time between me stopping and starting again, accident #3 had happened just up the road from the rest stop. Probably within two miles. I don’t know how bad the accident was or how many cars were involved, but it was bad enough that the entire highway was closed and everyone was being forced off the closest exit. That might not have been terrible, except people were driving on the shoulder to try to get off faster and it was still raining and visibility was still challenging and… well, put it this way. Not everyone was making good decisions. It was a very unpleasant half hour.

And my 45 minute drive to the campground turned into a much longer drive. Was it a mistake or was it lucky? If I’d kept driving instead of getting off at the rest stop, I might have missed that traffic delay entirely. Or I might have been on the road as the accident was happening. Impossible to know, so I tried to consider myself lucky instead of cursed.

And I kept driving. Accident #4 was within five miles of #3 — I’m going to guess that someone sped up in delight at finally being free of the stop-and-go and then spun right out. One car, off the road, but up on the fence. Ugh. Probably okay, but definitely the kind of the accident that would be embarrassing to explain to the insurance company.

Accident #5, maybe ten miles later, three cars, already off to the side of the road and exchanging information.

At this point, it’s still raining steadily, traffic is reasonably heavy, visibility is still crap, and there are drivers who are going 80MPH and weaving in-and-out of traffic. WTF, West Virginia? Do you not make kids take driver’s ed? Seriously, there were some people who needed to be stopped by the police, ticketed for reckless driving, and forced to listen to a lecture in the rain about why the way they were behaving was a danger to the people around them.

Accident #6… I can’t remember the details. It was on the other side of the road and emergency vehicles were already there, lots of them. And traffic was piled up on that side of the highway for miles. It made me almost relieved to be headed north.

At last, I found the campground. And it was… sketchy. It was three parking sites at the edge of a city park on a river. It bordered a very busy street, with McDonald’s and similar shops right across the way, and there were several cars at the park, with young adults hanging out at the picnic tables. In the rain. On a Monday in the middle of the day. I was dubious. It looked like the kind of place where teenagers come to smoke cigarettes and drink beer. And maybe do worse things. But I also didn’t want to drive anymore. So I parked and I tried to settle in.

It took me about an hour to decide that there was no way I was going to be able to sleep there — too much traffic — and possibly no way that I was going to be willing to walk the dogs there, especially not after dark. So, despite the rain — still pouring down steadily — I started driving again. Mistake #3? Or lucky decision #2? Hard to say, really.

I passed accident #7, three cars stopped, but I think one car that had totally spun out — it was facing the wrong way — and possibly the other two cars just stopped to help, because I didn’t see damage. And then, just as I was about to get back on the highway, I heard on the radio that the highway I was trying to get to had two accidents on it and traffic was going nowhere. The guy on the radio was listing off accidents and road blockages as if… as if it were normal. He was perfectly cheerful about it. No warnings, no suggesting that people should be careful, no advice to stay home if possible. Just “this road closed and that road closed and an injury accident still blocking x highway…”

The on ramp to the highway was totally backed up, stop-and-go, and I just didn’t want to do that again. So I kept going. I thought, oh, there’ll be someplace along this road to stop. Ten miles later, I changed my mind. I got off that highway, found myself a parking lot, and checked the map. It was almost 4, still raining, getting dark, and I was heading in the wrong direction. Ugh. So, so ugh.

I collapsed on the bed in misery.

And the bed was wet.

Drat it, why did I put wet clothes on the bed? How stupid of me… But wait. The wet clothes were hanging up on the back of the passenger seat. Did I move them? Did I first put them on the bed and then move them later? Did a wet dog lie on the bed after I walked them at lunch?

I looked up at the ceiling. Water was dripping off the air-conditioner.

Yep, because it was that kind of a day.

Sometime after total dark, I found myself a Walmart parking lot. I did not go inside and ask permission to stay the night in their parking lot, I just pulled the shades down, and curled up on a non-damp corner of the bed and read my book. I did not work on Grace and I did not feel guilty about not working on Grace.

Yesterday, I found myself a nice campground in Maryland — Rocky Gap State Park — and I am hibernating here. I sort of mean that literally. I barely walked Z this morning; I haven’t started writing again yet — making it now almost four days that I haven’t worked on Grace; I’m out of granola and haven’t baked more; I didn’t even eat lunch and it’s now almost 4:30. But Monday was grueling. My shoulders are sore from the tension and it hurts to tip my head forward. So I’m giving myself a break, and being grateful that none of the nine accidents along my drive on Monday involved me.

And I am really ready to stop driving for a while.

Carter Caves State Resort Park, Kentucky

My plan was to stay in Kentucky until Wednesday, but when the guy behind the counter at Carter Caves asked me how long I was staying, my mouth opened up and “Just one night,” came out. By 1PM, therefore, I will be moving on, probably to West Virginia, because it’s not that far away.

I think I should have guessed that this park wouldn’t be for me, based on the size and the long list of things to do and maybe even the word “resort” in the name (although it feels like all the Kentucky state parks call themselves resorts.) But it’s crowded with trailers, campsites set close together… the kind of park where people come to let the kids play on the playground and do the events like the haunted trail and the best pumpkin display competition. If you’ve got three kids and are wanting a fun kid vacation, it’s probably terrific. But it’s not remotely what I had in mind as a place to write. Even now, at about 9AM on a rainy Monday morning, I can hear kids yelling and doors slamming and engines running above the noise of the rain and the faint chirping of what I think might be crickets.

In other words, this picture doesn’t represent this park at all.

two Travatos

The Travato area

But soon after I picked a spot — tiny, narrow, steep, not very convenient, but at least not in the congested part of the campground that felt like a parking lot — I got a neighbor. Another Travato. In this park of giant trailers with slide-outs and multiple vehicles, it amuses me that the Travatos are sticking together in the woodsy quiet section.

Yesterday I broke my current 17-day streak of working on Grace every day. Drat. I guess I should be referring to that as my last streak. My current one starts today, right? But I wanted to get on the road early. Between rainy driving, two stops for gas, one stop for groceries and lunch, one stop for walking dogs, a time change, and then setting up, feeding dogs, cooking dinner, talking to my neighbors… I looked at the computer around 9:30PM and thought, yep, not today.

The good news is, I think I’m in Chapter 11 now. Or maybe 12. I’m not 100% sure that everything in the first 10 chapters works the way I want it to, but I am reasonably sure that I am finally set up to move into a fun romance. It was really delightful to realize that Grace (the character, not the book) could respond in an entirely new direction to the current situation because I’d finally gotten rid of all the things in the first ten chapters that were limiting her response. And that probably doesn’t make any sense, but it’s good news. It makes me cheerful about where I’m going next. Well, going next in Grace. Where I’m going next in my travels is something I should probably figure out … well, now. Since time’s a-passin’ and I’ve got to get moving.

Lost in Illinois

Serenity surrounded by trees

I’m losing track of states and places and park names. Fortunately, my photo app had no such problem. It told me that I was currently in Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in Barren, Illinois. I didn’t believe it: who names a town ‘Barren’? Doesn’t that seem like it’s just asking for people to be depressed about living there? So I double-checked with my phone and my phone thinks that I’m in Benton, Illinois.

So, yes, not only am I losing track of where I am, my phone and my photos app are equally confused. To make matters even more perplexing, if you search for Barren, Illinois in Apple Maps, it shows you Benton, Illinois.

I finally went to wikipedia, which let me know that Benton and Barren are neighboring townships. Barren has a population of 496 and Benton has a population of 8972. I seriously think that Barren should consider changing their name: it just doesn’t sell the place. On the other hand, maybe it’s an accurate description? But I would guess not, because whether I’m currently located in Benton or Barren (and it’s anyone’s guess, really), this is a very pretty area. And at least I’ve figured out that I’m in Illinois.

The reason that I wasn’t so sure is because when I left Missouri, I intended to do laundry, go grocery shopping, and then drive across Illinois and across Indiana and into Kentucky, which was where I wanted to stop for a few days. But I got off to a late start and then everything took longer than I wanted it to and then, most critically, the rest stop on the highway was closed, and B really needed to go. My choice was to drive another hour to the next rest stop with a whimpering dog at my feet, get off the highway and find a reasonable parking lot with a nice verge of grass, or just say the hell with it and find the nearest campground. I went with the latter.

Seriously, though, the campgrounds are beginning to all blend together. One after another, a different day, a different set of trees. Sometimes water, sometimes not. Sometimes starry skies, sometimes cloudy mornings. I’m going to have to start coming up with some distinctive event for each campground or they’re all just going to be a blur in my memory. In this campground, the distinctive event would definitely be Zelda, bolting through the screen door to chase away an entire herd of deer. She stopped before she went into the woods with them, but I scolded her anyway. I’m trying to convince the dogs to pretend that my screen is actually a door, but they’re just not buying it.

And if I ever come back here, I’m definitely going to try to get campsite #79. It’s spectacularly positioned, set off at the end of a cul-de-sac, with no neighbors, and an amazing lake view. The campground has lots of nice spots, though. I picked mine because there was no one else on this cul-de-sac, but before the night was over, every other spot filled up. But there’s tons of space around the sites, so even though it is definitely technically crowded — almost every site is full, at least in the portion of the campground where I have wandered — it doesn’t feel too crowded.

I suspect during the week it will empty out, too. When I wandered around with Z this afternoon, I could see that almost everyone was leaving on the 22nd. It’s probably going to be really nice and very peaceful here on the 23rd. But I won’t be here to see it, because I’m moving on, too, aiming for Kentucky and then West Virginia and then, within the week, PA. It feels like going home, and I’m looking forward to getting there!

Oatmeal in Missouri

Babler Memorial State Park trail view

I made oatmeal yesterday morning in the Instant Pot. I was out of granola, didn’t feel like eggs, the morning was chilly… it seemed like a worthy experiment. It was. Oh, it was! Three minutes on high pressure (but the IP takes a while to heat up, of course, so it’s actually longer than that) and the oatmeal was… I want to say fluffy, but that sounds wrong. Not fluffy like pancakes can be fluffy, but somehow light. And yet oatmeal, so still entirely filling. I guess I can’t explain it, but it reminded me of oatmeal that I ate in England, decades ago, that no other oatmeal has ever quite matched. It might have been helped by the fact that I couldn’t find coconut milk so bought half-and-half, and I put some of that in the oatmeal. Maybe that was the secret, not the IP. Or maybe it was the combination. Either way, oatmeal, delicious.

And I needed a delicious breakfast. I’ve had a weird few days. Two weeks ago, I wrote about avoiding the news because what’s going on out in the world is so horrifying. Who would have thought it could get worse? I should figure out some way to break myself of the news habit. On the other hand… well, psychobabble ahead: the Harvey Weinstein story and the #metoo movement has been incredibly triggering to me. I think it’s possible, though, that the processing I’ve been doing is (or in the long run, will be) healthy. At the moment, however, I am filled with rage and anger and hatred. And grief, too, I think. And I really don’t like those feelings. They are not pleasant to try to sit with.

And that appears to be all I want to say about that, so moving on: I’m at Babler Memorial State Park in Missouri. I haven’t been doing a very good job of appreciating it, even though the weather is lovely. Two nights ago I got my grill out and proceeded to almost ruin my dinner. So annoying! Every once in a while, I still do something while cooking that I can look back on and say, duh, that was obviously wrong, and that was one of those moments. But the dogs appreciated the burned sweet potatoes and the steak was delicious despite not looking very appealing.

But I mention it because this is the kind of park that inspires grilling. Lots of lawn, but nothing except lawn to separate the sites, so it feels sort of like a small suburban neighborhood rather than a state park. Picnic tables and fire pits and lots of neighbors with dogs. Combined with sunshine and 70 degree weather, it just feels like the right moment to grill.

I’ve also been working on Grace, of course. I wish I could say I was making progress, but somehow I seem to be back in Chapter Two again. I also wish I could say I was making it better, but I suspect I’m just spinning my wheels. I think I probably need to find myself a couple readers who are willing to look at one chapter at a time, and tell me whether individual chapters work. But I suspect that criticism would stall me completely and lack of criticism would feel unfulfilling, so I’m not actually sure that would help.

NaNoWriMo is coming up, and I’m definitely feeling the temptation to just dump Grace for a month and try to actually commit to a NaNo project. I started Grace four years ago, during NaNo. Four years! I can pretty much guarantee that it’s never going to be worth the amount of effort I’ve put into it. But I should get back to it. Today is going to be a laundry day and a movement day and a grocery day, and I would like to get at least a few words of writing done before I get on the road.