At Van Damme State Park in California, $45/night gets you a sloped campsite with no electric or water hookup, plus access to a shower that costs $1 for five minutes of water. I suppose I sort of get the shower thing as a method of water conservation — limiting the amount of water campers use is probably good for the environment. I still resented it, though. Seriously, $45 should get you a free shower.

That said, you do get the sound of the ocean. Admittedly, I kept waking up and being grumpy about being so close to a highway, and then having to remind myself that it was the ocean I was listening to, not the highway, but it was the ocean. And it smelled like ocean and pine trees and campfire smoke, which is a decidedly different and nicer fire scent than the wildfire scent that’s been so oppressive throughout my west coast travels.

Plus I got to meet @theroadtoadventure, aka Kate, who is on a quest to see all the national parks and monuments (443 of them), taking beautiful pictures along the way. Her van is extremely cool inside — she turned one bed into a desk space, and put a real mattress on the other — so we talked mods and campgrounds and places I should see.

And yesterday morning, I got to take the dogs to one last beach before I turned my back on the Pacific Ocean and headed inland. It was a rather seaweed-y, rocky beach, but we did enjoy it. Not as much as the beaches in Arcata, though.

dog at beach

B, wondering why we’re at the sandy place again. He’s not as much a fan of the beaches as Z is.

I’m pretty sure that some of my (I’m sure detectable) grumpiness is just reluctance to move on. It was probably a good thing that there was a nest of yellow jackets (hive?) right in the corner of the house by the side door of the van or S might have had an electric cord dangling out her kitchen window all winter long. I really liked Arcata.

Some of that, of course, was the company I was with. But we also had a really good time mixing tourism with domesticity. The grand plans we concocted when I arrived — of kayaking, cruises around the bay, maybe camping — did not all come to fruition. But we went to the beach a bunch of times; wandered around Eureka and ate oysters; visited the Trees of Mystery and admired the objects in the Native American museum there; saw Serenity in a movie theater; visited a friend’s photography exhibit; went to the farmer’s market… a good and busy set of tourist-type activities.

And we also cleaned out and organized her storage shed; cleaned out and organized her refrigerator and freezer; cleaned out and organized the wall of bookshelves in her living room. A few more days and I would have been painting her kitchen. And we cooked some delicious meals: pot roast, sautéed shrimp in summer rolls, sous vide steak. Plus shopped and did laundry and went to the thrift store… it felt very homey. I guess I understand why six weeks of feeling very at-home in other people’s homes has left me feeling a little homesick.

Or maybe worrying about R has just made me miss him. The good news is that he made it through Irma without excitement, although he did decide to evacuate Friday night. Is this ironic? He evacuated to Jacksonville, where the flooding was apparently much worse than it was in Sarasota. Oops. But it was still an enormous relief to me as the storm made its way up Florida to know that R was inland, not on the coast.

In other news… oh, so many things I want to remember, and of course none of them are coming back to me now that I’m sitting in front of my computer. I’m not a cat person, largely because I’m very, very allergic, but S has one that I developed a serious infatuation with. They call him Tank, but I was calling him Zen Kitty by the time I left. On the morning I left, I said goodbye to him, and he indicated that I was allowed to pet. I did, despite the whole “very, very allergic” thing, and his purr was a rumble like a massage chair, almost more felt than heard, but very solid and definite. I suspect Zen Kitty would be a good traveling cat: he seemed to take all things in stride. If he had a voice, I think he might sound like Morgan Freeman.

Another random memory: on the way to the photo exhibit, we stopped at a candy store. It had salt water taffy, which I don’t much like. But the sign by the counter of taffy intrigued me. I can’t recall the exact words, but it was a warning that the candy would taste salty. I bought five pieces. I put the first one — peppermint, I think — in my mouth and was transported back in time. It was my madeleine. A flood of memories, of my grandparents, of sitting in the backseat of the car with my siblings, of sand and salt water and the sound of the ocean… I ate all five pieces in about three minutes and if I ever pass by that store again, I will definitely be getting more. Turns out I do like saltwater taffy, just real saltwater taffy, the kind that actually has salt in it, the kind that tastes like the past.

And a sad one:

Catamaran after Irma

Sealandia didn’t make it through the storm

That’s the catamaran we sailed on during the Best Vacation Ever. She’s still floating, but the damage doesn’t look pretty. Looking at pictures of the British Virgin Islands is so sad. Some of the places that brought me so much joy just a few months ago are basically gone. And people will rebuild, of course. Five years, maybe ten years from now, there will be new places, shiny and fresh. But that doesn’t make the present moment any easier.

It feels wrong to end a post on a sad note: let’s see, homesick and grumpy and sad, this is not the most optimistic post I’ve ever written! But I’m actually doing well, grateful that everyone I know made it through Irma safely, and looking forward to my upcoming adventures. Tomorrow I’m headed to Lake Tahoe, and next week it’ll be the Grand Canyon. Finally!

But first, some time with Grace.