Tropical Storm Nestor inspired me to hurry to Florida. I really didn’t want to have to drive through the storm, so Thursday turned into a long driving day, and I managed to reach Mount Dora by midday on Friday.
I spent Thursday night at a free county park in Georgia, Barrington County Park. It would have been much nicer if a neighbor hadn’t needed to run his generator all night long and if an off-leash black Lab hadn’t really wanted to investigate Zelda, far beyond what Z was comfortable with. Sigh. And it was half an hour off the highway, so added an hour to my overall drive. Next time, I think I’d just sleep at a truck stop or a Walmart. But it was a nice drive down exciting dirt roads and good to get off the highway for a while.
I’ve since had a lovely weekend with my dad and stepmom in Mount Dora. We didn’t do much, but it’s nice to be here. Upon arriving, I told my dad that for Christmas I wanted enough storage to download a ton of books to a device, enough so I really can carry a library with me, not just have a library available in the cloud. My extended time without internet was fine, except my book supply with too limited. He promptly handed me a card for my Fire tablet and I spent Saturday morning downloading approximately 500 books.
Yay, reading material! Boo, temptation! I’m trying to resist the impulse to reread everything I own by Robin McKinley, Dick Francis, and Kathleen Gilles Seidel, all of which I’d kind of forgotten about because they were buried so deep in my Kindle library.
Meanwhile, I wanted to mention that Cici is part of Magical Escapes, a Kindle Unlimited book promotion this month. If you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber and like fantasy, lots of interesting titles are included in the group. And if you’re not a KU subscriber, you still might find some books you like! I downloaded several, but with all the driving, I haven’t had a chance to read them yet. (Also, I admit, Robin McKinley is distracting me. I’m rereading Rose Daughter for the umpteenth time. It’s not in KU, but the Kindle edition is available for $2.99, which is a good deal, IMO.)
On Sunday morning, I started off bright and early from Otter Creek, on the road by 8AM. I’m not going to say that I was running away from the smell of sewage, but the knowledge that Sunday is often a day when people leave campgrounds, and people often dump their tanks upon departure, definitely factored into my swift escape.
I was glad I did, however, because the Blue Ridge Parkway was absolutely stunning at that hour. I stopped at multiple scenic overlooks, mostly by myself because it was so early, and admired the breathtaking views. I took a bunch of photos, but none of them come anywhere close to capturing the beauty. And I’m starting to think it was a mistake to let the puppy chew on my phone — I’ve cleaned the camera lens, but my photos, eh. Anyway, this is the best of many bad shots of the glorious morning.
I stopped at the first visitors center I came to and read about the history of the road. The ranger there also gave me a map and explained why GPS is so completely useless: apparently, because commercial vehicles aren’t allowed on the parkway, Google has never mapped it. That explains why my phone kept trying to send me other places.
Although probably my phone would have kept trying to send me other places anyway — the parkway is definitely the slow way from Virginia to North Carolina. After four hours, I’d gone about 100 miles. And it was starting to get not fun. Seriously, not fun.
This shot is an excellent representation of what the road was like by noon. Forget the views, I was worried about whether I’d see the curves of the road in time to not drive off the road.
I stopped at a non-scenic overlook — that one with the tree, actually — to see if I could wait it out, but after forty-five minutes or so, that didn’t feel like an option. The fog just seemed to be getting thicker. So I gave up on reaching the campground I’d hoped to make it to (Linhall Falls) and looked for a closer option. And sadly, I had to look for an option with electricity, because the generator wouldn’t start so I couldn’t get the battery to charge. (Sigh. I’m hoping the generator problem was the elevation, which has been the problem every time it’s refused to start in the past (on two separate occasions in Arizona), but I haven’t tested it yet.)
Fortunately, there was an Army Corps of Engineers campground about an hour away, so I headed to Bandits Roost Campground in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. The campground is a typical campground — lots of sites, reasonably close together — but as with all ACoE campgrounds, there’s water nearby. If I had a neighbor, I’d be looking into their trailer window, but as it is, I’ve got a view of the lake (or reservoir, not sure which) beyond some trees. Zelda, for some reason, was super enthusiastic about the smells of this campground: we went for a walk when we got here and it took us half an hour to make it around the tiniest loop. Her nose never left the ground, but her tail was happy, happy. Unfortunately, they’ve got a water pump problem so the showers aren’t working. But the electricity is, so I’m not complaining. I turned the heat on to 70 this morning, and it was so nice to be warm.
My spot was only available for one night, however, so I’m getting back on the road this morning. I seriously debated abandoning my slow route plans entirely and just heading to Florida as quickly as possible yesterday — I was so tired from seven hours on the road and really unenthusiastic about adding any time at all to the driving I’ve got to do in the next week. But I am literally less than three hours away from Asheville, so I am going to persist. Hopefully not too much driving today, followed by a couple of low-driving (or no driving!) days and I will be ready for the long burst back to Florida.
My first goal when I headed off on Friday morning was not propane: it was cell service/internet. Without GPS, I had no idea where I was going. Serenity has a compass on the dash and I used it to keep myself roughly oriented south-east, since I knew that’s where I would want to wind up, but I wandered around winding back roads of the forest for a while before stumbling into Shenandoah National Park.
It was a gorgeous day for it. It was foggy in the forest, all shadowed green trees with wisps of cloud hovering between them, a perfect setting for a fairy tale or a horror movie. But as the road wound up, I drove out of the fog and into pure sunshine, with the light reflecting off the bank of clouds beneath me. So beautiful. Like being on an airplane, that moment when you truly feel like you’ve entered the sky, except that my sky was still surrounded by trees and nature. I tried, of course, to capture the beauty by stopping at scenic overlooks to take pictures, but it’s impossible to do it justice. Plus, as with all national parks, half a dozen people or more were always admiring the same view/cluttering up the scene. Oh, well. It was a chance to add to my collection of Pictures of People Taking Pictures. (Someday I will make a slideshow of those.)
As promised by the National Parks Guide, I saw white-tailed deer and plenty of birds. A blue jay darted across the road with a flash of his blue wings and made me gasp. Literally, because I thought I was going to hit it and that would have been awful. Fortunately, I missed or he missed, and the next second he was gone. Eventually, I found the visitors center, watched the movie about the founding of the park, got a stamp in my parks passport, and spent the next hour on the internet, catching up on my email, posting to my blog, responding to messages, and using my gps and camping apps to figure out my next steps.
How did I forget it was a holiday weekend? It just hadn’t occurred to me. But all the campgrounds in Shenandoah were full, plus I still needed propane, so I headed south, thinking I’d try to make it halfway to Asheville. The Skyline drive in Shenandoah was beautiful, but the search for propane put me on 81 and it was horrible — stop-and-go traffic in spots, always crowded, always a generic highway. Not the worst generic highway, but a highway is a highway is a highway. Within an hour, all of my morning delight was gone in the reminder of why I am sick of driving. I pulled over at the first rest stop I could find and revised my plan. It took another hour, but I got off 81, found the Blue Ridge Parkway, and took the very last spot at the first campground on the parkway, Otter Creek Campground.
The very last spot is lovely. For parking purposes, it’s tiny — I actually had my doubts whether the van would fit when I looked at it. But there’s plenty of room for a tent or even two, a picnic table, a fire ring, and it overlooks the creek. The campground has a dump station and potable water, so I emptied my tanks and refilled my tanks, and settled in. And super nice people. I chatted with a park volunteer, Bobby, for a solid hour — set up my chairs and everything — about campgrounds in Florida & the Great Smokeys, writing, and the camping life. When it was getting dark, the campground host wandered by to let me know that at 5:30AM, he’d be setting up an extension cord on his picnic table for people who needed a little electricity for coffeemakers in the morning.
On the other hand, the very last spot does have one rather big problem, so I will say, for the sake of any reader who might actually be using my blog for campground advice: avoid #68.
If I was a Photoshop maven — well, and if I owned Photoshop — I could probably tweak the light balance on this photo so that you could read the words on the sign. But they say Dump Station (or something similar). Yes, the place where people pour their sewage into the ground is a stone’s throw from my campsite and yes, that means the whiff of sewage is a regular guest. Not my favorite natural smell ever.
I had intended not to stop for longer than a night until I made it to Asheville, but given the holiday weekend situation, I changed my plans and paid for two nights. But the Blue Ridge Mountains are apparently just as bad for internet as the George Washington National Forest was — no cell signal or internet at all, not even a flicker — so I’ll probably be posting this on Monday.
I also discovered something really obvious at Otter Creek — something I should have figured out a long time ago. I always have a hard time writing in parking lots, and busy campgrounds are almost as bad. It’s because they’re busy, obviously. It was a big campground, full for the holiday weekend, and I simply could not settle into my imagination at all. People wandered by, kids played in the creek, the aforementioned dump station meant I got to watch multiple other people’s dumping techniques… and abruptly, the writing was just as bad as when I drove east this summer. I was in the middle of a major scene and I couldn’t find any words. So frustrating.
But Z and I had a really nice walk through the woods — the longest walk she’s been willing to take for a while. We also waded in the creek, although only she got her feet wet. So I guess I wasn’t wading, I was hopping along the stepping stones. 🙂
I also spent some time cleaning and organizing the van. Campgrounds in the forest in autumn -> tracking in leaf mulch and more leaf mulch and more of it. But the van felt clean for two or three minutes, anyway.
And I’m glad to get on the road again. Not sure where I’ll be camping next, but I will definitely be paying attention to where the dump station is before I make any commitments!
When I set off from Allentown on Monday, my plan was to take a slow drive south, seeing the scenery along the way. I had my sights on a small National Forest campground for my first night, to be followed by a drive through Shenandoah, then more driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway. With overnight stops along the way, of course. By the weekend, I’d be in North Carolina. I’d explore Asheville and the Great Smoky Mountains, maybe check out the ruby mine in Cherokee, just because I liked the sapphire mine in Montana so much.
In other words, I’d be a tourist.
The only problem with this plan is that the book isn’t finished, and I really truly want to get it done.
I made it to my first destination: Little Fort Campground in the George Washington National Forest. It’s a tiny campground, only nine sites, and it has no amenities. No water, no hook-ups, no showers, no dump station, no garbage service. Also no internet access and no cell service. It’s also free, so you know, you get what you pay for.
Except not really, because it is beautiful and treed and peaceful. Not a view, exactly — it’s just a spot in the middle of a forest — but out of every window I see trees, just starting to pick up their autumn color. The campground seems to be a base point for people with ATVs, so occasionally the noise of humankind is pretty loud. But mostly it’s crickets. Literal crickets, lots and lots of them. At night, the only lights I can see are the ones created by the van and by nature. Well, and once a campfire from people across the way.
When I got here on Monday, I had my choice of three sites: one right next to the check-in board that was so tiny the van would barely squeeze in; one relatively sloped site; and one that was the nicest spot in the campground — a pull-through spot, with steps up to a level square with a picnic table, fire ring, and paved tent spot.
I feel like it would be good to explore my reservations about taking the nicest spot with a therapist sometime — really, why did I hesitate? Why did I feel like I should leave that spot to some person with a bigger camper who would need a pull-through? Why did I feel guilty, in a first-come, first-served campground, about choosing the best option of the available options? I don’t know, but I did. However, I overcame the guilt and took the good spot.
And then I stayed. Because honestly, I feel like I should see the National Parks, since I’m so close. And I feel like I should take the long scenic drives, and admire the beauty of our autumn countryside. And I feel like I should explore Asheville, a town that I’ve been told I’d love so many times.
But what I want to do is finish writing APM. So for the past two days, I’ve played with words and stared into space and eaten nice food and taken occasional brief walks with Z and enjoyed my life. Ever so much, enjoyed my life.
I’m writing this on Thursday, but you’re not going to read it on Thursday, because I have no internet access. When I went to sleep last night, I was thinking today was the day I’d drive on. Shenandoah, Blue Ridge Parkway, etc. Also internet access for checking email and messages, posting blog posts. But I’m not going to. Maybe tomorrow if I run out of water or propane or finish writing the book. (The first is possible but unlikely; the second is possible and somewhat likely; the third is highly unlikely.) Instead, I’m going to keep playing with words and appreciate the sounds of crickets.
Updated to add: propane was the deciding factor. But before I left, I had such a nice experience. I realized I was going to have to go late Thursday afternoon, while heating up some soup for dinner. I was a little bummed, but accepting. Obviously, it was still a choice: I could have stayed without propane. But I would have had to run the generator to make coffee in the morning and I am not capable of being that rude to my neighbors. No one likes being woken up by a growling gas generator when camping.
So I packed up the van so I could be ready to go first thing in the morning. Everything was stowed, I was mostly all set to go… and a late arrival drove into the campground. A truck, pulling a trailer. Not huge, but the only site in the campground that he might possibly fit into was mine. He drove in, took the loop, was making his way out, and I hopped out of the van and flagged him down. Ten minutes later, I was moved into the tiny site across the way, the one next to the check-in board, and a very happy camper — who’d been on the road for eleven hours — was settling into my site. He was grateful and the serendipity felt like the universe telling me it was time to move on. It was such nice timing.
And no, the book isn’t done. It took another unexpected turn, which… well, it’s an unexpected book, I guess. But I spent quite a bit of time wavering about this unexpected turn. A paragraph that sums up the dilemma:
“Fen fumbled for the crystal in her pocket, unable to tear her eyes away from Ghost. Clearly, she had fallen asleep and woken up in some bad B movie from the 1950s. This couldn’t possibly be real.”
Fortunately, I eventually decided that bad B movies can be highly entertaining and I might as well stick with enjoying the ride. “Still giggling” remains among my favorite reader feedback ever, after all!
I looked outside this morning and the fog was so dense that I couldn’t see past the middle of the driveway. I thought, “Oooh, how beautiful, I want to go for a walk,” and then I paused and thought for a minute.
The river has fog every morning, little wisps of it that trickle along the water’s surface like ghosts. I’ve enjoyed watching it and I’ve also noticed that the colder the morning, the more fog there seems to be on the river. That’s not entirely true — there was one crisp, clear, sparkly morning that reminded me of the taste of autumn apples and it wasn’t foggy at all. But mostly, fog & chill, they go together.
So before I opened the van door, I asked Alexa for a weather report. Ha. 36 degrees! It is time to dig out the winter coat, I suppose. Fortunately, my time in Arcata seems to have overwritten the Florida in me or maybe my upstate New York roots are finally returning — the cold hasn’t been bothering me much, although I am definitely not spending as much time sitting outside writing as I imagined I would. That’s okay, though, because the view from the van window is lovely and I’m perfectly happy to be cozy inside my van while I write.
By about 7:30, the sun shining through had turned the fog into a mass of gold at the end of the driveway. At 8, it was dancing wisps along the river again. And now, 9:30, it’s gone, but all the colors of the day are bright and intense — blues, greens, even the oranges of the leaves in the tree out front.
I have noticed that the cold is making me crave carbs. Yesterday I was determined to eat salads: I’ve got mixed greens, arugula, radishes, cucumber, and pea pods, all closing in on a week old or older. I hate wasting food, so it was time to eat my veggies. But lunchtime rolled around and well, a warm rice bowl with tomatoes from the garden, oregano (also from the garden), and goat cheese just seemed so much nicer. I could have thrown a few other vegetables into it but I just wasn’t in the mood. For dinner, another rice bowl with steak, cilantro, and chili garlic sauce won over green salad. I think my mistake was buying summer vegetables — food I associate with cold salads on hot days — when it just doesn’t feel like summer to me. Today, salad for lunch. Definitely. Well, maybe.
I read a useful book this week: Dear Writer, You Need to Quit, by Becca Syme. I look at a lot of writing books on Amazon, and often read the Look Inside, then either turn away or think, eh, well, maybe someday. Sometimes I add them to my wish list. Sometimes I buy them, and add them to my immense To Be Read pile. This one, I read the Look Inside, purchased the book, then read the book. That almost never happens. But I’m glad I did. The book does not actually suggest that one should quit writing, although she does suggest quitting lots of other things, including “Quit Trying to Be Like Everyone Else” and “Quit Focusing on Your Weaknesses.” Were those my two favorite chapters? Maybe.
After I finished, I reread Cici. Cici is the only book of mine that is a comfort reread for me, a story where on a rainy or a sad or a sick day, I read just so I can be part of that other world for a while. She makes me laugh. She still makes me laugh, even though I’ve read her dozens of times and know every twist — actually every phrase! — inside and out. And sure, I get critical the way I do with my other books — clunky line, repetition, a little slow here, etc., — the editor brain never shuts off. But not in a way that ruins my enjoyment.
Cici has sold less than 300 copies, earned considerably less than $1000. From a business point of view, it makes absolutely no sense to write more books like Cici. But Cici brings me joy. And you know, life is better when you focus on what brings you joy and not on what earns you money. Obviously, starvation, homelessness, pain & suffering are all not likely to bring me joy, so I’d like to avoid total penury. But for the moment I’m going to accept the permission to quit trying to be like everyone else (not that I ever tried very hard, tbh) and write what brings me joy.
I’m also going to quit ignoring the past. (Another chapter I liked.) My favorite of my books = my fastest-written book. My most well-reviewed book = my second fastest-written book. When I let go and let my intuition take me places, it takes me to interesting stories. When I try to follow the rules — three-act structure, character development, instigating events, blah-blah-blah — well, I’m not going to say the stories are bad, because I don’t think any of my stories are bad, and if I did I wouldn’t have published them. But I don’t gain anything from writing painstakingly and plotting carefully.
Does Fen change in A Precarious Magic? Does she go from one place at the beginning to another at the end? Does she have an appropriate character arc for a main character?
Honestly, do I care? Is she fun to read and do I have fun writing about her? Yes and yes. That’s the only question I’m going to focus on today and tomorrow and for as many future days as I can remember this.
Change is hard, so I know I will forget. Which means I’ll go back to letting the undercurrents of worry — (Will people like this? Will I disappoint them? Will they criticize me?) — push me around. I don’t want to care about those things and I try not to think about them, but they are much too firmly rooted in the instincts of every Former Good Girl for me to ever truly let go of them. But I’ve added a note, QTP, Question the Premise, to my whiteboard and hopefully it will remind me to reread Dear Writer whenever those undercurrents get too strong.
And now, back to work. I feel like I owe you a snippet for sitting through this, but I’m much too deep into spoiler territory. Would reading the first chapter be fun? Or seeing the cover, maybe? Let me know!
On Monday, I meant to write a blog post. But I decided it needed a picture to go with it, so I got my camera out. Playing with my camera was so fully distracting that I never got around to the writing.
On Tuesday, I meant to write a blog post. But I’m using Freedom, an app to block my internet access, and I forgot to enable web exceptions, which meant I didn’t have access to my own website. Oops.
On Wednesday, I meant to write a blog post. But I started reading Debra Dunbar’s Imp series, quite casually — you know, just a quick hour of reading before I started my day — and I … just didn’t stop. Ten books in the series, and I kept going until I was finished.
On Thursday, I meant to write a blog post, but I was still busy reading books with demons and angels in them.
Today is Friday. I cleaned the van, washed and refilled my water jugs, dumped the tanks, refilled the propane, did my grocery shopping for the week, picked up the mail, and now I am finally writing a blog post. Mostly just so I can resist the temptation to keep binge-reading, though. My two days of reading have put me well behind on what I am supposed to be doing, aka writing a book. Speaking of which… I believe it’s time to get back to that. I’m still hoping to finish writing by the end of the month, but my daily word count goal is growing by the day. Despite all that I have already achieved today, I’d really like today to be a day that makes my word count lower instead of higher, which means it’s time to focus on Fen.
This is the updated version of a cookbook that I’ve given to half a dozen people over the years. The original was so important to me and so formative that it was one of the five books that I kept physical copies of when I got rid of all my belongings. (Two of the others were the edition of Winnie-the-Pooh that my parents gave to me for my fifth birthday and The White Dragon, by Anne McCaffrey, with a note inside congratulating me on having read 100 books in 6th grade. Just so you understand how steep the competition was to be in that tiny category.)
The Kindle edition is on sale today, September 3, 2019, and honestly, if you’ve ever thought that you wanted to be a better cook, this is a cookbook that can get you there. Not without doing the work, of course. I know that at least a couple copies that I gave away sat on bookshelves, unopened, and it won’t teach you a thing if you’re not actually going to read it and try out the recipes.
But one of the copies that I sent out into the world found its way to a college student who now writes a cooking blog. That thought always pleases me, because the only thing better than learning to cook is encouraging someone else to learn to cook. There’s a bumper sticker on the wall by the door at the house where I’m driveway camping/house-sitting that says, “Heal the world, Cook dinner tonight.” And now I’m doubting myself, but feeling too lazy to run inside to see whether I got it exactly right. I got the concept right, thought, even if the words aren’t exact.
I left for Maine on Wednesday and I made it as far as the Target/CostCo parking lot. I needed gas. And snacks. And toothpaste. And lunch. And by the time I was done with all those useful things, the sky was gray, rain looming, and I had a sinus headache and wanted a nap. So I drove to the garden house and took a nap. I enjoy rain so much more sitting in Serenity than driving Serenity. By the time the rain stopped and my headache eased off, I had no inclination to start driving, so I spent the night in the garden house driveway.
On Thursday, I really drove to Maine. Well, no, I didn’t. I really drove, but I mostly drove to Connecticut. And around Connecticut. And more around Connecticut. Note to self: never take Serenity to Connecticut.
I guess the problem is not “to” Connecticut as much as it is “through” Connecticut. Route 15, aka the Merit Parkway, has bridges that are too low to take Serenity under. Vehicles over 8′ are not allowed on it. But nothing I could do would convince either of my GPS systems — Apple maps on my phone or the GPS in the van — to let me avoid it. I wound up wandering surface streets in random towns and trying not to be obsessive about how much time I was wasting. Ironically, every time I’ve driven this direction before, I headed north to Albany and then across MA because even people driving cars think CT is a nightmare. The only reason I didn’t yesterday was because Apple Maps was convinced that CT was faster and I decided I was perfectly competent to deal with traffic, even NYC traffic. Traffic, yes. Low bridges, no.
I didn’t stop at all until after 1PM, and by the time I’d finished eating my lunch, traffic had added another hour to my journey. Five more hours to my destination in Maine, meaning an arrival at 7PM, not including stops for dinner, gas, and walking the dog. And further delays as rush hour traffic really got underway. I decided against. Or rather I decided I would let fate decide. If the state park right next to the highway was full, I’d keep going. If it wasn’t, I’d stop for the night. Such a good decision!
Wells State Park was not universally loved on the camping apps: narrow roads, sloped spaces, no hook-ups or amenities. But it is gorgeous. The host gave me a site “overlooking the water”, which is an apt description — I’m high on a hill with a steep slope down to the water, so there’s no playing in the water. But the site faces east and the sun is shining on my laptop as I write this, and I’m surrounded by trees and the smells of nature. Also, plenty of traffic noise, but distant enough that I can pretend it’s the sound of the ocean. (That is what happens when you aim for a state park right off the highway!)
This morning there was an orange note on the van. I was puzzled by how it had appeared sometime in the night, but I think I was asleep by about 8 with the front curtains drawn, so it was no surprise that I hadn’t noticed someone putting it there. Anyway, the note warned me that the town was closing activities between the hours of 6PM to 8AM because of the risk of EEE caused by mosquitoes, and warning me to use insect repellent, cover up, etc. I was reading this at 7AM, comfortably within the time of mosquito bite danger, so of course, I walked Zelda feeling absolutely paranoid about bugs and itching like crazy. But it was so pretty with the fog rising off the water as the sun shone on it that I still took dozens of pictures.
None of them turned out very well, unfortunately. I had a brief moment of wondering, “What’s happened to my phone camera? Did I mess up the settings somehow?” And then I remembered that my favorite game with Oscar, the Best Brother Ever’s puppy, was letting him steal my phone out of my pocket and then run away with it. He was so cute and determined as he tried to drag it away. I’m willing to bet that my camera lens has a bunch of dog saliva on it. Time to clean it. (Also, Dad, I am planning to stick it in the mail today – I haven’t forgotten, I just needed the gps for one more trip first!)
If I was staying a few more days, the first order of business would be to drag my ever-so-rarely used inflatable kayak out from under my bed and start inflating. It’s a beautiful day for kayaking and this is a perfect place for it. But Apple maps is steadily adding time to my route to Maine and on the Friday before Labor Day weekend, I think it’s only going to get worse. So I’m going to pack up and get on the road. But I would happily stay in this campground again, mosquitoes and road noise and all.
I’m not much of one for movie reviews, mostly because I’m not much of one for movies. If I see one movie every six months, it probably means I’m spending time with my kid.
But yesterday Barbara and I went to see Maiden, a documentary about the all-female team of sailors who won the Whitbread Race, an around-the-world sailing competition, in 1989-90, and I can’t stop thinking about it. And can’t recommend it highly enough. I got goose bumps, I cried, I was so invested in their story, even having spoiled myself and already knowing some of what happened.
It’s a movie about sailing, of course, but it’s also a movie about sexism and inspiration and perseverance and hope. And endurance. Maybe it’s really a movie about endurance. And I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I’m not going to write any more about it. (Actually, I’ve written lots more about it, but I keep deleting what I’ve written, because I don’t know how to say what I want to say without spoiling it.) But it is a fantastic movie. If you get the chance, go see it.
≈ Comments Off on Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site & Blackberry Campground
Augustus Saint-Gaudens was the son of immigrant parents. His father became a shoemaker in New York City, and Augustus became one of the most famed American artists of the late 19th, early 20th century. His bronze statues of Civil War era politicians and military generals are the artwork of public spaces in big cities, instantly recognizable. At Teddy Roosevelt’s request, he also designed the art on some of the classic coins of the era.
He had a retreat and studio in Cornish, New Hampshire and after his (untimely, early) death, his wife worked to make sure he was remembered, part of which entailed giving the land to the nation and turning it into a national historic site, New Hampshire’s one and only national site.
I, of course, knew none of this before I drove up and parked in a pretty grassy field for RV parking. I felt like I should have, though. Many times during this journey I have been confronted with my ignorance — about wildflowers, bird identification, geography, geology, plumbing functioning, electricity… Yeah, moving into a camper van is a good way to discover how very much you don’t know. But it’s also a great way to learn unexpectedly.
I had a lovely hour at the historic site watching the video about his life, wandering around the studios and admiring art, and appreciating the gorgeous gardens. I especially liked the honesty of the historical information: Saint-Gaudens had an affair with his model, an illegitimate son, and a strained relationship with his wife, all of which was openly addressed in the displays about his life. Even though my opinion of him immediately plunged when I found out he’d cheated on his wife, the details made their story much more interesting than a generic recitation of dates would have been. They became a story, real people, not just history.
Post the historical site, I headed into the mountains of New Hampshire. I’d been told that the Kancamagus highway was worth the drive, so even though it was far from being the most direct route to my destination in Maine, I headed that way.
It was a nice highway. I am, however, lamentably spoiled. I think I should drive it sometime in the middle of autumn to be truly impressed, because I mostly drove along it thinking about all the other beautiful highways I’ve driven on in the past three years. Sure, it was pretty, but it was no Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
But I stopped at Blackberry Campground, a National Forest campground, around 3PM and paid $25 for a dry camping spot for the night. My spot was huge, had a cement pad and a nice fire pit and was surrounded by trees. I would definitely give it solid marks for pretty and secluded. But I totally picked the wrong side of the campground. Even though I couldn’t see the road, I could hear it. And sadly for me, big trucks drive that road making big truck noises as they go up the hills.
Even more sadly for me — well, sort of — the weather had gone quite dire. Fantastic thunderstorms and pounding rain. I say “sort of” because it’s still really fun for me to be in the van when the rain is pounding down. Even after my intense winter of California rain, I love the music rain makes on the van roof and the punctuation of thunder rumbles makes it all the better. But it did mean I didn’t wind up exploring the campground at all. I’d picked the campground because it was a Conservation Corps Campground and most of them have some beautiful old stone structures. This one had a nearby hike to a covered bridge, too. In better weather, it would have been a fun place to wander around. So it goes. Maybe next time. And maybe next time in autumn, when the leaves should be splendid and the mosquitoes should be frozen.