Charging Summer Batteries

So I’ll have something to help me light up the dark winter to come.

Deep Creek State Recreation Area, Ninilchik, Alaska

As I relax outside my RV on this glorious August day, listening to waves lap rhythmically against the shore, I can’t help but ponder the coming winter and beyond.

I try not to do this too often – but in my heart I realize that at least part of my drive (no pun intended) to travel and camp during the short, sweet months of summer is so I can look back on the memories and the feelings these pictures evoke in me.

Volcanos across Cook Inlet create their own weather patterns on an otherwise sunny summer day. I love the swirling, ever-changing cloud formations.

Next winter is going to be long and unavoidably isolating … much more so than winters past – and winter in Alaska is always a bit on the isolationist side even in a good year. THIS is not a good year.

So, what do I do when the walls start closing in and I’m feeling depressed? If you follow my blog, you already know – I hit the road in “Roada”, my Winnebago.

This shot reminds me of a quote that’s quite popular in Alaska right now: “Alaska – where we’ve been social distancing since 1959.”

She is my “out”, my escape vehicle, my summer cottage on wheels and my place of peace. She brings me back to sanity in a world gone awry.

With “Roada”, and one or two dachshunds as navigators, I’m pretty much free to ramble across this vast state, stopping when and where I want, with no pre-set agenda.

This past weekend, we started out attending a 4-day K9 Nose Work Trial in Sterling. Since I was already down on the Kenai peninsula in my RV, it seemed a waste to not continue south.

I left Sterling on a rainy Monday afternoon, trusting the weather forecast would be correct for once. A couple of hours later, I turned “Roada” towards the ocean and down a steep, winding road leading towards what looked like a muddy boat ramp parking lot.

Deep Creek boat launch.

Several bumpy, pot-hole strewn minutes later, I’d passed the public boat ramp (lots of fishermen out on the water that day!) and located the entrance to Deep Creek State Recreation Area.

The mountains and volcanos across the inlet winked into and out of view as the storm clouds broiled. I sat, transfixed, well into the evening as the tide came in and the clouds rolled on.

Dark, brooding clouds seemed to almost rest upon the bluffs to either side of the beach as I closed up the RV for the night.

A white-painted lighthouse stood out clearly from the gray backdrop. Storm clouds not withstanding, it was still too light outside to call it night, but at 9:00 pm, the dogs and I called it a day.

Lighthouse overlooking Cook Inlet at Ninilchik, Alaska.

Day two dawned bright and breezy. Since the light gusts carried the warmth of August and had served to scurry yesterday’s dark clouds away, leaving a gorgeous sun-kissed vista of Cook Inlet for me to enjoy, I had no complaints.

The beach at the mouth of Deep Creek.

Baxter, Rhonda and I spent the day investigating the beach at low tide and again at high tide, watching fishing boats launch and head out into the inlet and bald eagles soaring loftily on the fresh summer breeze.

At age ten, Baxter no longer has the energy of his 2-year-old younger sister, so we kept his outings shorter and returned him to “Roada” for some much-deserved quiet time while Ronni and I continued to explore.

Rhonda desperately wanted to chase the many sea gulls swooping up and down the beach, but the near-constant presence of bald eagles hovering hopefully overhead limited her (and Baxter) to scant six-foot leashes.

I can see that this story is rambling on longer than any one blog should, so I’ll leave you with one last, glorious sunset and a promise of “the rest of the story” coming soon …

10:30 pm sunset over Cook Inlet

Chasing Plastic Bunnies!

My two-year-old small standard dachshund, Rhonda (Goodwood Help Me Rhonda B Good, NW1, BH-O, AKC SWN, TDA) recently discovered the joys of chasing zooming, flapping white plastic-bag-bunnies!

Friday afternoon started out with a promise of nice weather, so Ronni and I looked forward to hanging out watching our friends play this dog sport called CAT (Coursing Ability Test). It used to be called Lure Coursing … I’m not sure if it still is or not.

I hadn’t decided if I was going to let Ronni try it or not – the dogs run free in a really large grass field and Ronni has been experiencing a rough patch in her recall training lately. She is a very Nose-driven pup.

But, they were offering “fun runs” for only $5, and Ronni seemed seriously focused on the plastic strips that stood in for running bunnies … so maybe.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this sport; they set up a 300-600-yard zig-zag course that takes up a lot of the large grass field. They run a strong cord attached to a generator and motor so the cord whips quickly along the ground, around pulleys, changing direction and speed as erratically as a fast running bunny.

Plastic strips are attached to the cord and a person with a remote sits high on a ladder to have a view of the whole course – he controls the speed and erratic movement to the lure. The goal is to keep the plastic “bunny” lure running ahead of the dog chasing it – not an easy task when the salukis and grayhounds show up!

This encourages the dog to run as fast as it can – and the event is timed. The dog gets to catch the plastic lure at the end of the course, leaving them wanting more, more, more!

Sooo … back to Rhonda. I had no idea if she’d take to chasing plastic strips. I only committed to one fun run, just to see if she liked it.

HAH!! 😂😄🤣

I should’ve known better. If it runs – it must be chased, and if possible, caught!

We ended up staying all evening, signing up for the actual trial. Rhonda had a blast. The next time I set her at the start line, there was no hesitation – she knew exactly why she was there and what to do when the plastic bunnies (as she sees them) skittered off across the grass. Game on!

The orange ribbon is Ronni’s first “Q” (qualifies run) in the sport of CAT.

Time Flies Slowly By

Too fast … the summer is flying by far too quickly. And yet, we’re doing so few of our usual summer activities. I feel like a spectator, sort of sitting off on the sidelines of [normally] my favorite season of the year.

Spring passed in a blur of dismal distraction. I was too focused on the growing pandemic to more than vaguely notice melting snow, greening trees and warming temperatures. For months, like so many others, my only jaunts outdoors were, for the most part, walking dogs up and down my driveway.

I’ve found, when you don’t have other people to talk to, you can have long, meaningful discussions with your dogs. Beware if they start talking back though …

Good listeners ❤️

In spite of the pandemic; in mid May, I finally came to the conclusion that there had to be more to my life than sitting at home. A balance of risk verses enrichment must be achieved – or what is the purpose?

I really do want to avoid catching the coronavirus, not simply because it’s potentially fatal at my age, but because of the myriad of ongoing health issues this illness seems prone to leaving its recovered victims to cope with.

There is so much I still want to do with my life, and time was already getting short before this. Adding more health issues to those I already have dragging at me would likely put paid to my more ambitious plans.

Then again, the [necessary] restrictions to traveling we have in place at this point may stretch out long enough that I’ll have to set my dreams aside anyway. I hope not.

My years long goal of traveling leisurely through Canada in my Winnebago, followed by extended visits with my two sons (one in Wisconsin, the other in Oregon), my four grandchildren and my great-grandchildren … well, to say it’s just “on hold” may be optimistic.

We are well into summer now, with wildflowers blooming in abundant radiance along roads, rivers and mountainsides. The birch trees outside my window shiver with bright apple-green leaves against a brilliant blue sky. A balmy summer breeze caresses my cheeks as it wafts in one window and out another. Why do I feel trapped?

Grateful for the benefits of living on a 15-acre section of land in Alaska – I don’t need to cover my face with a mask most of the day (unless I go out). I have a fenced one-acre pasture where my dogs can romp (although it’s getting more overgrown by the year with no goats or sheep to keep it clipped back – soon, it’s going to be “a fenced forest”).

I have enough space; driveway, shop yard and pathways, to take my pups for fairly long walks without running into other people. I have nature at my doorstep – so much beauty around me.

On the other hand; I find I NEED other people. I feel lucky that I’ve been able to continue, albeit mostly outdoors, getting together with my close group of K9 Nose Work and Barn Hunt friends. I just wish I could touch or hug them.

Our weekly team dog sports practices are about the only social outlets I have right now. Lots of social distancing and masks (when we want to stand close enough to actually talk), but it’s a wonderful outlet after months of only texting and Facebook..

The desire to reach out and touch someone is likely only going to intensify as we head into our first real Covid winter in a few short months. I am not looking forward to this next winter, always a time of relative isolation – this winter is going to prove challenging beyond belief.

I want my life back. I want it back now so I can continue moving forward while I’m still able. I console myself with the belief that the little things I do for others, from organizing sport practices to giving bigger tips to take-out deliverers, to sending “thinking of you cards” to family – will somehow brighten their day – and thus brighten mine.

I also have my RV, and although I’m constrained to only traveling within Alaska (I know … I shouldn’t complain – it’s Alaska!), it does allow me to venture fairly safely beyond the confines of home.

And yet, for the most part, I remain to a large extent sidelined by caution. Who would have dreamed that one of my most accessible hooks by the door in my RV would be dedicated to face masks?

My essential wardrobe.

I am beyond grateful for the RV. As long as I stock up on food (usually via online ordering and car pick-up), wear disposable gloves at gas stations (removing and safely disposing of them before I get back in the rig – and then washing my hands with soap and water anyway), mask up and socially distance if I need to enter a business … I feel nearly as safe as I do at home. Not totally, but close enough.

It’s like I take my clean, sanitized home with me. I park far from other campers and have little to no interaction. Luckily, I sort of lean that direction naturally when it comes to strangers, so it’s not a hardship to maintain distance.

But still … I’m alone. Well, almost alone. 😉

My last trip, eight days of mostly peace and solitude (and lots of driving) did wonders for my general state of mind and certainly helped me de stress … but didn’t solve the problem of needing to be with people. I doubt I said a handful of sentences beyond necessary campground registration the whole time.

It was also over a week ago! It’s time for wheels to roll, a new vista is waiting to be seen, a new camping spot awaits discovery. 🎵🎶 And I’ll do it MY wayyyy!🎶🎵.

Hmm … According to the weather forecast, I should be humming 🎵🎶 “Singing in the rain” 🎵🎶. I do not care. Ack. Let it rain.

I promise … something cheerful next time.

Off the Road (for now)

There’s no place like home …

I definitely planned to be off the road before the 4th of July weekend – and it seems I barely squeaked in under the wire. I expected some vacation destinations would pick up a bit for the holidays, which is why I chose to return home … but I had no idea. 😳

Although I totally understand how the extended stay-at-home mandates, the coronavirus itself and the stressed economy have combined to give everyone a bad case of cabin fever (my trip this past week being a prime example) – I am still amazed and appalled to see so many people seemingly throwing caution to the wind to converge on crowded lakes, rivers and campgrounds for the 4th of July weekend – in dense groups.

As I traveled home yesterday and today, I passed more and more places where RVs were converging in large bunches, with central group campfires, multiple vehicles per campsite and people everywhere.

Why in the world did I think Alaskans would exercise more common sense than has been shown to be the case elsewhere in the country? Sigh.

I’m so glad I had my week of quiet, relaxed travel when I did. Businesses in small towns are being cautious and proactive (and with good reason – it’s a long way to any sort of serious health care services) – everywhere I went, store clerks were wearing masks, even at gas stations. Business doors regularly bore signs to the effect; “Thank you for protecting our employees by wearing a face mask.”

I took to keeping a clean mask folded up in my jeans pocket. Even while camping, you never know when you might want to pop into the office/gift shop/cafe, right?

The way things are looking this weekend … I’m feeling bad for those small towns and businesses. It’s a no-win situation. They need the tourist dollars, but at what risk? I was so hoping to see social distancing and more individual families camping.

ANYWAY … enough of that. I did indeed make it home safe and sound. I truly did follow all prudent safety and sanitation mandates while I was on the road; wearing my masks indoors, social distancing, washing my hands a lot and even wearing disposable gloves when filling up at gas stations. Hopefully, I was as safe as I felt. 🤷‍♀️

I arrived home just before noon today and had to smile as I couldn’t help but notice that my own driveway is just as pretty as some of the campgrounds I stayed in.

Today I also realized how filthy my poor “Roada” is … and it’s time to pay the piper. I think my hot, sunny 4th of July celebration is going to include a garden hose and a big tub of soapy water!

I tried calling the Mobile Wash & Detail folks, but it seems they are not providing this service right now. 😢 I’m on my own.

Well, at least I have my new ball cap to keep the sun and soap bubbles off my face.

Since it was a beautiful day today and I’m anticipating being totally wiped out after bathing Roada tomorrow, we celebrated the holiday a day early with burgers on my little camp grill and some fun play time with the two pups – right in our own yard. ❤️ I think Baxter is glad Ronni and I are home, too.

Happy 4th of July, everyone. Please celebrate responsibly!

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