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Hello, my friends and any perspective campers who will soon be friends.  Welcome!

A little change of pace with this blog.  Now that I’ve “almost” finished the camper (known to most as Nosty’s Nook) and it’s camp-able, and the new standee camper is still on the drawing board, it’s time to get out there with it and start enjoying the fruits of my labor; as well as the stress relief that only a weekend in the woods can afford me.

What better way to enjoy the great outdoors than with friends, old and new?

I’m in the polling stages at present, looking to find out if there’s any interested adults who’d like to be part of an active camping, and, of course, dog friendly, group with one agenda:  Fun.

As for me, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Brian Greenleaf.  I have been an avid camper since my Cub Scout days back in the sixties.  I have slept under the stars, spent many years tent camping, have owned a pop-up and a full sized camper and now take great pride in the tiny travel trailer I spent a year building. I am a super hero by day and a Failure Analysis Technician by night.  I wrote my first camping book back in 1999 called The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping.  Over the years, I have been part of many camping groups, mostly family oriented groups, and have decided it would be a whole lot of fun to get together with a zany bunch of like minded middle-agers and make some memories.

Sour pusses and overly anal retentive people need not apply.  Those terminal diseases are contagious and would spread through the group.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a tent camper, pop-up or camper enthusiast, like to sleep under the stars, or whether you own a 30′ motor mansion, we’d love to have you.

As I mentioned, I’ve been part of various other camping groups over the years and, unfortunately, many of them failed miserably due to waning interest directly related to internal strife or disagreements, usually brought about due to the advent of the dreaded “cliques.”  Once a clique gets started, it’s like a festering pustule that almost always signals certain death for the group.  I’m hoping to start a group of like minded (translation: slightly crazy) folks who’d look forward to group trips to various and sundry places within reasonable range of the Upstate of SC/Georgia/NC;  places decided on by democratic vote, of course.

As those of us who live here well know, there are a plethora of beautiful places to camp in our area.  From the mountains to the sea, and everything in between, we have it all right here in our own back yard.  What better way to reduce stress, meet new people and just plain have fun, I ask you?

What I’m hoping to bring together are folks who’d like to get out in the woods once a month, (or twice a month or once a quarter depending on what everyone wants), see new and different places, relax, have fun and meet new people.

As I write this, I have a cast iron griddle, recently obtained in what most would consider pitiful condition from a closing antique mall for a song, seasoning in the oven.  I admit it.  I’m a camping addict. I eat, sleep and drink camping.  I’d rather have the Outdoor Channel than the Playboy Channel…….OK, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture.  I enjoy camping; fall, winter and spring, and plan on having my Thanksgiving turkey breast, (actually, probably a steak and baked potato), beside a roaring fire again this year.  While I realize that everyone doesn’t have a taste for winter camping, late winter and spring are the perfect time to get out in the woods for almost anyone so, if we get the ball rolling now, we should be able to plan the inaugural camping trip in early 2013 (if the Mayan calendar prediction doesn’t come true and we’re no longer inhabiting this world after December 21st).

In summation, I am  hoping to bring together an all-for-fun group who enjoy camping and having fun.  People who would get a kick out of participating in things like chili cook-offs, lively and jovial fireside cocktail parties, great conversation, probably some singing and story telling (and, of course, SMORE making) around a roaring camp fire; possibly visiting some of the local attractions wherever we camp………..you get the picture.  And all of this with fun people who appreciate and don’t mind going along with the democratic decision making process.  If all goes well, and we’ll do our best to insure that it does, everyone will get to go to the places they’d like to go and do the things that they’d like to do at some point during the camping season.  All for one and one for all.  No fuss, no muss, no infighting.  Personally, I can have a great weekend anywhere when I’m camping.  Rain or shine, there’s nothing like camping.

What we don’t want is a strictly regimented group where every minute of your weekend is planned out.  Camping as a group is a blast.  Being up everyone’s butt every minute of the day doing planned activities becomes tiresome.  The group, as a whole, will choose what they want to do and everyone will be free to either participate, or take a stroll down to the water with a rod and reel and scare the fish or crawl up in their preferred mode of camping with a good book.

Axe murders need not apply.  It’s nothing personal, but I get the heeby-jeebies being around someone crazier than I am.  Other than that, the only other requirement is that you have to love to camp and have fun.  Married or single, everyone is welcomed.

If you’re like minded, and would be interested in becoming part of the group, you can contact me via email:  doc@bgreenleaf.com , on Facebook,  or comment below.  If the interest is there, I’ll put up a web page dedicated to the group where we can share ideas, chat and keep abreast of what’s going on, all while secretly plotting global domination.

I look forward to hearing from and talking to you and, hopefully, sharing a campfire with you in the near future.

Until next time, I wish you peace, fair winds and happy trails,

Brian

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Hello, my friends.  Welcome back!  It’s great to have you here.  “Resistance is futile.  You will be assimilated.”  I’m like a fungus:  after a while, I grow on you.

Yes, I’m slowly getting back to the important things in life; camping and writing so, God willing, the blog will go back to a certain regularity and, hopefully, be more informative and entertaining than ever before.

I don’t know whether it was all the time I spent editing and revising Born Bent Over for ebook publication, or just the typical day late and a dollar short realization continuum that is my trademark, but a funny thing dawned on me the other day that set off bells and whistles all over the atomic wasteland I call a mind.

Before I go any further, let me clarify one thing:  I have been an avid camper from my short-pants days in the Cub Scouts and have probably logged more hours in the woods than a few middle-aged bears I know (most of them are moving into the suburbs now, anyway).  I have camped extensively up and down the east coast and have even hiked a significant portion of the Appalachian Train.  Suffice it to say, with all that experience and the fact that my first book, The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping is in its’ third printing and still receiving great reviews, I might be considered somewhat of a camping expert:  in my own mind, perhaps, but an expert nonetheless.

That being said, and in keeping with my Born Bent Over birthright, I have had some experiences in the woods that would have most mere mortals running for the comfort of a Holiday Inn.  It’s my lot in life.  I accept it and have learned to deal with it……somewhat.  If something didn’t go wrong in everything I do, I’d get extremely nervous and start chilling the beer and awaiting the arrival of those five, thirsty, dreaded horsemen (whom are rumored to be coming December 21st, bwahahahahaha!!!!).  That drunken sot guardian angel of mine, the infamous Murray, just keeps falling deeper and deeper into the bottle and the Victoria’s Secret catalogs and the proverbial poo just keeps hitting the fan.

Am I bitter?  Nah!  I just pray daily that the curse ends here and my children and grandchildren are spared the wrath.

Anyway, back to my intended point (I tend to drift).  Just a rough pass through the moldy, yellowing, brittle files in my gray matter brought back some graphic horror stories from camping trips past that really got me thinking.  Some of them are so bizarre that, at the time they occurred, the only way I could avoid a stint as a guest at Happy Acres on their Celebrity Haldol and Shock Therapy package was to opt for selective amnesia with the hope that, if the memories ever resurfaced, they would do so well past the statute of insanity limitations and become funny fodder for future campfire stories.   A few of them still send a chill up my spine; but I’m long past PTSD due to the far more frightening events that have made up my everyday life for lo these past fifty-two years.

So, I said to myself, “Self,  why not compile those stories into a new book?  Born Bent Over Two:  Camping Stories No One Would Ever Believe.  I can even hear the banjo music theme song now.  I guess I’d better learn to play one before I finish the book.  Look at the pretty colors!  Squirrel!!!”  The seventy-five voices currently occupying my gray matter all agreed in unison that a compilation of all those horror stories would be a great idea.  That’s the first time that ever happened.  They’re such a diverse group, as those of you who’ve read Born Bent Over well know.

One story comes immediately to mind.  This tale may not be for the faint of heart, so those of you with a weaker constitution might want to skim down to the end.  This ain’t pretty.

Picture this, if you will:  Orlando, FL, the Year of Our Lord 1993.  My son was seven at the time and my daughter was just the cutest little two year old holy terror you’ve ever seen.  Up until that point, we’d been avid tent campers.  I had always been a tent camper and, by golly, I was going to remain one til……..OK, til I started waking up paralyzed from sleeping on the hard, root-riddled, damp ground.  I was thirty-three with the body of an eighty year old and the whole “roughing it” thing was losing its’ appeal rapidly.  To top it off, Florida is Africa hot: always.  No exceptions.  Throw in the constant, 300%, humidity and you’re pretty much living in a twenty-four hour sauna bath.  We needed AC just to breathe!   At the time, we were camping, on average, two weekends a month.  What’s a dad to do?

Swallow your pride and buy a camper, that’s what.  For the kids sake, of course.

Having never before owned a camper, I asked around a bit and did some research on what type of camper would best suit our needs.  I was on an extremely limited budget so whatever I decided on would, without fail, be not-so-gently used and require a great deal of elbow grease and fix-it acumen.  I figured I had those so, on one crisp, clear Florida Saturday morning, my son and I, “Campers For Sale” paper in hand, went cruising.

I don’t know how many counties we covered that morning, but by early evening, almost ready to call it a day, we passed an old farmhouse somewhere in Deland with, as “my” luck would have it, a pop-up camper, fully erected, sitting on the front lawn with a For Sale sign on it.

We stopped to look, but it appeared to be in immaculate shape so I assumed our stopping was for naught.  My son jumped out of the truck and went running up to it as the owners, who resembled the sweetest pair of Norman Rockwell grandparents you ever saw, came to greet us.  Here’s where that old line, “Never judge a book by its’ cover.” comes into play.

After some sugar-coated introductions and their oohs and aahs over how cute my wing man was, I asked right up front how much they were asking before bothering to inspect it.  If it was something astronomical, we’d just thank them for their time and go home and try again another day.

“Eight hundred dollars and not a penny less,” grandpa said.  Danny had absolutely no poker face back then.  “Dad!  That’s what you said we could spend!  We can get it!  Yeah!!!”  I could have strangled him right about then but, as I said, he was such a cute little guy.

I proceeded to look it over closely, pretending to know what the hell I was looking for while Danny was doing his own inspection of the inside and extolling grandma with his camping acumen.

“The tires are new, the wheel bearings were just packed and she don’t leak a drop,” the aged, used car dealer from hell proclaimed.  I still stick pins in the voodoo doll I had made of him in Cassadaga on a later camping trip.

I had to admit:  a visual inspection of the “beast from hell,” as I would later name it, was impressive.  I spent a good thirty minutes checking this and “ah-ha-ing” that, pretending to be somewhat of an expert.

“Sir, as you can see, I’ve got two small children at home.  We love camping and we’d like to get out of our tent and into a camper, but to be honest, the most I could possibly come up with would be six-hundred dollars.  I’m sorry we wasted your time.”

“Aw, give it to um, Henry,” the aged Stepford wife giggled as she was listening to another of Danny’s stories while telling him how cute he was.  He was always such a little ham.

“Well………. Sure; what the hell.  Ma and Me were young once.  Six-hundred and she’s yours!”

I couldn’t believe it!  I’d finally won one (or so I thought).  My dumb ass usually ends up offering more initially than the seller was thinking of asking in the first place.  Danny got his poker face from me.

With Danny’s staunch and boisterous supervision, I paid the man, got the camper hooked up to the hitch, waved our good-bye’s and thank yous and we were off.

The following weekend I spent familiarizing myself with all the gadgets and doo-dads, cleaning this and that, fixing the tail lights that didn’t work and preparing for our first trip in a camper.  We were all as elated as a fat kid locked alone in a candy store over night, all working together, prepping for the following weekend.  After a full weekend of preparations, we went inside and perused the Woodall’s Catalog for a great place to go on our first trip.  After a whole bunch of giggly back and forth (Shelby suggested Hawaii), we decided on Tomoca State Park in Ormond Beach.  It was relatively close to the house, had full hook-ups, fishing and hiking as well as an interactive Native American exhibit; the prospect of seeing that thoroughly fascinated the kids.

I spent the entire week packing this and checking that: trying to insure we had everything we needed so that nothing could possibly go wrong and put a damper on our first camper outing.

Boy, was I a dreamer.

Everything started off well.  We’d gone out for groceries the night before, packed the coolers, sundries and half of Toys R US in the van and made it to the park without incident.  Ah, but the plot thickens.

We no sooner got the camper set up when the sky decided to open up with a deluge of biblical proportions.  No biggie, right?  Wrong!

The rain relegated us to the confines of the camper for the duration (which turned out to be the entire weekend).

Again, no biggie, right?  We weren’t in a tent any longer.  Like the late George and Weezie, We were movin on up!  We had a camper with electricity, running water and a VCR with stacks of movies for the kids just in case such an emergency befell us.  We were no amateurs!

We’d been inside for about all of ten minutes when my wife began a sneezing fit, followed closely by my asthmatic son.  The sneezing we might have passed off, but the advent of the hives and swollen eyes from both of them told me only one thing: those “sweet, kind” former owners had dogs who camped with and slept with them in the camper; contrary to their claims to the negative.  Both my son and my wife were terribly allergic to dog hair and I specifically asked Ma and Pa Kettle if they’d had any dogs in the camper.

I was digging through a cabinet, looking for the first aid kit containing the  Benedryl when I heard a pop and my daughter crying out that the TV went off: and right in the middle of her favorite movie……which she’d watched six-thousand times.  At just about that time, I began to feel as if I was being subjected to the Chinese Water Torture.  Drops of water were coming down on my head at an alarming rate and, as I later learned, on top of the TV, too……which shorted out (eating Shelby’s favorite tape in the process).  Water was pouring down on the beds, the counter top, the floor…..you get the picture.  The canvas on that camper was about as water repellent as cheese cloth.

But, if you spent just a month in my shoes, you’d learn quickly to always look for a silver lining.  You know it’ll never come, but you look for it nonetheless.  It’s what keeps me out of Happy Acres.  Determined to save the day, I went out and pulled the plug to insure the whole thing didn’t short out, dug the umbrellas out of the truck and took my soggy band of stoic campers to see the American Indian exhibit……..which was closed for renovations.

We went back to the camper to regroup and see what we could salvage, hoping that the rain would pass quickly as most Florida showers do, when we realized, rather shockingly, that when I backed the camper into our site, I’d parked directly over a very active, angry, fire ant mound; the inhabitants of which were now occupying the inside of the camper, en mass…….and they were pissed!

A winner never quits and a quitter never wins.  Head hung in defeat, (it should be obvious by now that I’m definitely not a winner: at least not in the literal sense) I loaded the family into the truck while I, now soaked to the bone, collapsed the camper and prepared for our trip home.  I could have used Moses at about that time to part the angry sea because it was high tide inside the camper and, even collapsed, water was pouring out from under the half-doors.

In an attempt to mount the trailer tongue on the hitch ball, I realized that the jaw wasn’t opening and the two refused to mesh.  In the interrum, the deluge had reached a point where I was considering building an ark.  The wind decided to join the parade and, in some places (namely right where I stood) it was actually raining up.  We’re talking serious rain here.

Expletives spewing from me like a man possessed, I opened the back doors of the van to get at my tools and, hopefully, fix the receiver. I’ll never forget Danny’s little face as he looked over the back seat, eyes puffed closed and a huge bugger stuck to his upper lip as he asked, through slightly swollen lips, if I needed any help.   All I wanted was to get everyone home safely, find a huge cliff to push the camper off of and reconsider taking up golf when, in my rage, I accidentally reached under the receiver a little to far just as it decided to relent and come down with a resounding SMACK!, (followed closely by a series of loud, effeminate shrieks) sandwiching my finger between it and the hitch ball.

You’re laughing, right?  Admit it.  But wait:  it gets better.

My van was a three speed with the shifter on the steering column.  My wife couldn’t drive a three speed.  My nearly-severed finger was now resting in a cup of blood-soaked ice that I was holding between my thumb and three remaining fingers.  Daddy needed to get to a hospital to have his finger sewn back on before shock set in and Daddy had to drive there.  I still remember fondly my little ghoul two-year old wanting to see Daddy’s boo-boo finger and just staring at it without the slightest bit of revulsion or disgust, just amazement.  My lil punkin!

Go ahead and laugh.  This was just a day in the life for me.

I made it to the hospital, using language (derived from pain and my inability to drive a manual transmission truck with one hand, I assure you) that probably still haunt the kids dreams, (who am I kidding?   They could probably teach me a few new expletives) only to find that the local hospital didn’t have a hand surgeon and they needed to call one up from Daytona Beach.  Thirteen hours later, with an IV catheter still in my arm due to a disinterested nurse and pain meds sufficiently on board, two bored-to-tears, screaming kids who were acting out the American Indian war dance they never got to see and a tired, hungry, disheveled wife in the waiting room, (not to mention an enormously large bandage on my hand and my arm in a sling) we headed home in torrential rain, pulling a trailer with a three speed that I was steering with my knees and reaching my left hand over the wheel to shift:  the gear shift that was on the right side.  Did I mention that the van didn’t have power steering?  Just wanted to paint as clear a picture as possible.

That’s one of my more mild camping experiences.  We didn’t have to bury any bodies on that trip.

And I still love camping!  The rumors must be true.  My mother did raise an idiot.

You know life has dealt you lemons throughout when you’re working on a sequel to a book on just how screwed up your life is and there will still be tomes more to write.  Ain’t life grand?  Admit it: you wish you had my life.

Right now I’m awaiting a slight reprieve from the Florida-like weather we’re having here in SC so I can drag Nosty’s Nook out of the barn and get her ready for what I hope to be a long and frequent camping season.  I’m hoping that September through May brings about some fantastic camping weather and I can get out and do what I love best……..well, second best, but I’m currently camping alone so that prospect is a moot point.

I may be fifty-two, but I ain’t dead!

In closing (the crowd moans, “Thank God!”), things are hopping at Danby Mountain Press.  Aside from the forthcoming sequel to Born Bent Over, the Paramedic sequel is nearing completion and should be published later this year.  On top of that, Danby Mountain Press has added an audio studio to our glamorous, skid row, publishing facilities so our published works will soon be available as audio books.  Busy, busy, busy.  I don’t date much, can you tell?

Until next time, and as always, my friends, I wish you peace, love and every happiness life has to offer.  Until the next blog, beware the couple from the American Gothic painting trying to sell you a pop-up.  It’s sure to be a lemon!

Adio!

Brian

If you haven’t read my latest ebook, Born Bent Over: Flashing the Vertical Smile at Middle Age, shame on you.  Everybody needs a good belly laugh and Born Bent Over is sure to please.  Download your copy now.  You won’t be sorry.

Again, my many thanks to my wonderful sister, Michelle, for her hard and creative work on our website.  We all know who got the brains in the family.  Stop by and check us out.  We’ll be uploading some new stories very soon.

©Brian Greenleaf 2012.  All rights reserved.

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And Lulu makes three....

Hello my friends.  Welcome autumn and welcome back!  It’s great to be back and to have you stop back for a visit.

Believe it or not, all this started a little over a year ago.  It seems like only yesterday that I was contemplating the build and pondering the chances of turning that old frame into a viable camper.  I’ve made a great many new friends through this blog and the TTT group over this last year which made this one of the best years in my recent memory.

It has been a very long, hot summer which was definitely not conducive to camping or working outside; hence the lack of a blog over the last few weeks.  But tis fall again and we’re back and starting the season off with a bang.  As always, we’re living life one beer at a time.

If you remember from the last blog, last weekend, (Sept. 16-18), was the first opportunity I’ve had to make one of the Tear Jerker’s camping trips.  I’d made reservations for an earlier trip to Boone, NC back in the spring but frame issues with Nosty’s Nook made that trek into the mountains impossible.  Last weekend, frame sufficiently refurbished, I finally made it to the End of Summer Fling at the Lake.  A great time was had by all.   (Double click on the pictures to see a larger version).

Don't let the innocent face fool you.

I’ve had a new addition to the family since the last blog.  I am, once again, ecstatically, the proud papa of a bouncing, beer swilling, poop-at-will, camping fool mini dachshund, heretofore referred to as Geno.  I’m passing out “It’s a boy!” kibble krispies.  Later in the blog you’ll learn how he earned his nickname Geno the Wino over the weekend.  Geno was, thankfully, rescued from a rather dismal existence and, thankfully, fate saw fit to bring us together.  To say he’s spoiled would be like saying beer is good, but if there was ever a more deserving little bundle of pleasure, I’ve never met one.

Minor tragedy also befell my otherwise happy household over the summer.  I had to bury The Big Top.  It appears that the SC sun is just a little too much for the likes of the Harbor Freight Portable Garages; regardless of their overzealous claims of longevity.  After the second tarp in two years succumbed to the elements, and Nosty’s Nook was left to the whims of nature, I decided that it was time to issue the last rights to The Big Top and find a more permanent solution to my need for an outdoor man cave in which to create sawdust and piles of empty beer bottles.  Friday, they delivered and installed my new 18′ X 24′ X 8′ metal garage which will be, God willing, the birthplace of my latest project; a lightweight, 12′ x 7′ Standee, (translates into can be stood up in), camper with a commode and shower within.  Hey, it keeps me out of the bars.  Given it’s 12×7 size, it still qualifies as a tiny travel trailer and, therefore, keeps me eligible as a Teardrop and Tiny Travel Trailer member; but with the added luxury of the ability to stand, shower and answer nature’s call in the privacy of my own camper.

Back to the weekend!

Accompanied by Geno and the lovely Emma, we put lil truck through the paces through the, albeit minor compared to further up into the Smokies, SC foothills on our trip to Devil’s Fork State Park in Salem, SC.  It took a bit of downshifting on some of the steeper hills, but lil truck was up to the task and pulled through with flying colors.  Given that she was pulling two adults, a five pound puppy, a substantial supply of fire wood, gear, loaded coolers and had Nosty’s Nook taking up the rear, she was a true tribute to Toyota and four cylinder pick-up’s ability to meet a challenge.

I’m told Devil’s Fork State Park is located on Lake Jocassee, one of the Duke Power/Corps of Engineers lakes in southwest SC, but our site wasn’t anywhere near it, nor did we see it other than the occasional glimpse of a silver shimmer coming through the trees.  To make matters even more trying, our site, or the spot where the camper needed to sit, (a site in name only), was on a massive hill with the power and water hook-ups on the wrong side.  I had nightmares of waking in an ambulance after being wrapped around a tree following a midnight, high speed, cruise down the steep slope with no one at the helm.  Thankfully the wheel chocks held firm, but it wasn’t my idea of an ideal campsite.  When the rangers passed our site, making their rounds, I mentioned my concerns about the poorly designed, ill conceived and ill fated site.  Their only reply was that they hear that all the time.  Throw in the dirty restrooms which were in dire need of some repair, as well as a breeding ground for some of the most monstrous Daddy Longleg’s spiders I’ve ever seen, and coupled with the fact that the site rental was more than most of the other Corps of Engineer’s campgrounds in the area and it’s a good bet that, unless the Tear Jerker’s choose to have another outing there, I won’t be going back.  (Update:  I just learned that the Tear Jerker’s plan on having next years’ end of summer fling at the same place.  Maybe the new camper will be done by then.  I sure hope so.)

Yes, he pulls it with his motorcycle.

Aside from the many amazing  teardrops I saw this weekend, and the many new ideas I got while we were traveling from site to site, visiting with some great people and tire kicking, I saw the epitome of “tiny” travel trailers. No, this is no novelty.  After some coaxing, the owner climbed inside to show us that he can, indeed, sleep stretched out in this little marvel.  With the advent of more lightweight building materials these days, anything is possible.

Kids, don't try this at home!

My photography leaves a little to be desired but, yes, there’s really a full grown man in there with room for one more if you know them really, really well.  I wouldn’t recommend this after a night of drinking beer when sudden, urgent, trips to a nearby tree might be a reality, for the claustrophobic or for those nutritionally enhanced, such as myself, but as a place to get a good night’s rest after a long day of cruising on your bike, or as a refuge should the sky open up while you’re on a deserted stretch of highway, you can’t beat it.  Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like your own TTT.

Saturday night pot luck gathering

As you can see, the event was well attended.  Initially, the Tear Jerker group had the entire campground booked but, due to the threat of impending bad weather, many chose to cancel.  It was a little nippy, and the sun was a stranger all weekend, but the much needed rain we in SC have been praying for never materialized.  Friday night consisted of a rib cook-off and “tea” social. Saturday night was a pot luck and “tea” social with a great many dishes created right there at the campsite.  A lot of dutch oven delicacies; an art I’m going to try my hand at with my six-quart cast iron Lodge dutch oven on my next trip, were eagerly consumed.  In as much as I’m a crockpot-one pot/easy peazy fanatic, I never before realized the versatility of a dutch oven.  Everything from stuffed peppers to cobblers to chicken pot pie can be made in these wonders with some strategically placed briquettes and a little parchment paper.  Stay tuned for film at 11.  I’ll either be writing a dutch oven cookbook, or a first aid manual for the more klutzy dutch oven chefs such as myself.

I'm trying to get it "off" of his snout!

Never set your beer glass down when there’s a dachshund around. I got up for one minute to offload any earlier consumed malty beverages and make room for more.  When I returned, I found I needed a refill.  Thankfully there was only a few sips left in the bottom!   For the remainder of the evening, every time I filled my cup, I had a pair of the most pleading, pathetic brown eyes you’ve ever seen, beseeching me to share.  And this was after Geno’s ten or fifteen failed attempts throughout the evening to mount a rather standoffish lady dachshund named Abby.  A chip off the old block, that Geno…….and with very similar end results.

Das Hangar

My new pride and joy was installed on Friday.  Considering that the guys who installed it were walking on the roof and installed four-four foot long auger anchors, (one on each corner), that brought back memories of the massive ice augers we used to use while ice fishing back in the day to secure the frame, I don’t think the new “hangar” will fall victim to the elements for a long time to come.  At least I’m hoping not.  I’d prefer to concentrate my efforts on the new camper.  This is something I’ve wanted for a very long time.  Now I have it.  Life is good.   The big screen TV, pool table and kegerator should be here next Tuesday. *wink*  Party at Brian’s!  Whoo Hoo!!

I’m considering another trip in two weeks, (Oct. 8th), to try out another campground I’ve heard about it Hartwell, Georgia.  The cooler weather has brought back my hankering to get away and spend my weekends in the woods with a vengeance.  I know Geno’s up for another weekend away.  His crate fits perfectly between the foot of the bed and the back wall in the walk-through so he sleeps snug as a bug in his own crate and safe from wandering critters.  Don’t let his size fool you.  He’s got the heart of a lion, but I don’t think he’d be much of a match for a bear.  As a matter of fact, he’s about the same size as some of the bear scat we saw while walking in the woods. *gulp*

Inasmuch as I want to keep a regularity to the blog, since the crux of the construction was completed I find I don’t have a whole lot to report every week.  On the weekends when I’m out in the woods, the stories flow like a river and when the new build starts, I’ll be full of things to share, but in this “limbo” period, I think I’ll plan on a once a month blog with “Extra’s” when something of interest to anyone other than myself comes about.  I’m hoping to blow the dust off my electrical bag and get some power and lights installed in the hangar next weekend which, while a milestone to me, wouldn’t make very interesting print.  I just want to express my heartfelt thanks to those of you who have kept the emails coming during the downtime.  I love hearing from you and swapping stories.  As always, feel free to contact me any time at doc@bgreenleaf.com

Until next time, live life to the fullest, never miss an opportunity to grab for the gusto, never sit at the computer without a puppy in your lap and always let the little things just roll off your back.  Life is, truly, grand.

Ciao for now,

Brian & Geno

You can read some of my short stories and get information on my books on my website:  www.bgreenleaf.com

All new for 2011!

And, should you be so inclined, The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping has been completely revised for 2011 and is now available as an ebook!  Every ebook dealer from Sony’s iPhone store to Amazon and Barnes and Noble are carrying it.  However, through December 31st, 2011, we’re offering a 25% discount for all the loyal readers of Brian’s blog through Smashwords.com.  Just add the coupon code NN96W at checkout and you’ll receive the discount.  Picture this:  Wilderness 2011.  You just bought a new tent and figured it’d be a cinch to set up.  You got out of work late and arrived at the campground after dark.  Ominous dark clouds are looming over your campsite.  You unpack your tent only to realize that you haven’t got a clue about how it goes together and the directions are all in Mandarin Chinese.  What do you do?  Well, if you had a copy of this informative book on your phone or ereading device, you could simply thumb through a few chapters and be roasting marshmallows within the hour.  Don’t have a copy?  Well, there’s a lot to be said for sleeping in the car.  Oh, you have bucket seats?   The kids are loudly voicing their displeasure over sleeping in the back seat…..all night long?   Save yourself the headache.  Order your copy today.

Read Full Post »

Living life one beer at a time......

Living life one beer at a time...... `

Hello, my friends.  Welcome back.

This picture pretty much sums up my weekend.  I only hope all of you had as restful and relaxing a weekend as I’ve had.

The only fly in the ointment this weekend was when I learned that there may or may not be a slight flaw in Nosty’s Nook’s aerodynamic design;  at least where the air conditioning is concerned.  Hey?  I never claimed to be an aerospace engineer.  As a matter of fact, this weekend I learned that I may actually be aerodynamically challenged, (and not just my disproportionate body, either), where air flow and circulation are concerned, (with the possible exception of the velocity, scatter pattern and overall casualty rate within the confines of a small TTT from “air flow” caused by the consumption of too many beer brats, sauerkraut and dark lagers).

This was the first weekend out where I actually needed AC.  Up til this point it has either been heat or open windows.  The temps this weekend were soaring around the 100 degree mark which was, thankfully, alleviated, somewhat, by an afternoon thunderstorm on Friday, followed by a much welcomed cool breeze and a marked decrease in temperature.

However, inside Nosty’s Nook, trouble lurked, (insert theme music from The Exorcist).

I started running the AC earlier in the day to insure I had a nice, cool place to sleep Friday evening.  What the hell?  I wasn’t using my electricity, right?  As a matter of fact, the power generating station was just across the water!  The intense heat in the galley should have been an indicator that trouble was afoot but I’m not really great at reading signs, either.  Besides, it was hotter than hell outside so I just assumed that the heat was a product of my surroundings.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  Truth be told, I was pretty sure of what was going on, but I didn’t want to start worrying about something I could do very little about on a Friday afternoon while I was surrounded by peace, quiet a rippling lake and nature at it’s finest.  So I did what any other, red blooded, mental defective in that predicament would do:  I cracked a frosty beer and saddled up in my zero-gravity lounge chair.  Leave us not forget; priorities are priorities.

As it turned out, the vents on the AC unit are adjustable from right to left, but not up and down.  All that beautiful cold air was slamming directly into the face of the bed, but not making it over the hump to the head of the bed.  Imagine my chagrin when I crawled in for a peaceful, comfortable night’s sleep and the trip from the foot of the bed to the head of the bed was like stepping from the freezer into the oven.

Not too good!

Obviously there will be some extreme design changes required to overcome this conundrum, but I shall overcome!

To get through Saturday night without melting, I made a trek into the thriving metropolis of Townville, SC, (population 7),  and left some money at the local Dollar General for a 9″ fan which I temporarily mounted to the wall above the AC unit.  The fan worked pretty well at blowing all that pent up cold air from the walkway across the bed and throughout the camper.  Problem solved………temporarily.

Another downfall of my design is that the interior of the galley reaches sweltering temps due to the AC discharge as it pulls the heat out of the cabin and tries to dissipate it into the atmosphere, (that atmosphere being the galley’s interior).  Have you ever seen a bottle of hand sanitizer sweat?  I have.

Currently I find myself with two options:  1) Cut a hole in the side of the camper over the bed with a locking camper compartment door on the outside that I can slide the AC into and out of on each trip or, 2) Buy a rooftop, camper, AC unit that vents in through the roof by removing the crank-up vent I currently have installed.  Option two, obviously, would be the preferred method, but extremely cost prohibitive.  New units start at around $2000 and used units, when you can find them, are of questionable quality at best, (although I will be looking).

What it boils down to is that, while I love Nosty’s Nook, this won’t be my last build.  I have plans, in progress as a matter of fact, on my desk for a 12′ X 7′ stand up camper that will, without a doubt, have a roof top AC/heat unit and a shower and potty inside, (and will, hopefully, lack all the augh-ohs and down right Oh Shits! I’ve experienced with Nosty’s Nook).  Unfortunately, that build is still some time off so I’ll have to make due with what I have; and with the least amount of cash expenditure possible.  By the way, if any of you wealthy folks are interested in adopting a balding, jolly, 50 year old, please email me with a financial statement, (including a clear indicator of what my six-figure allowance will be), and pictures of your garage and keg-style beer dispensing apparatus.  All others need not apply, (with the exception of Sandra Bullock, Valerie Bertinelli or Allison Krause).    I’m cute, cuddly and biodegradable, semi-house broken and I come with my own pots, pans and tools.  What’s not to love?

Anyway, back to the weekend.

With the exception of the aforementioned, life-altering, AC saga, this weekend was another winner.  My only complaint was that the restroom serving the loop my site was on left a whole lot to be desired.  My first encounter with it Friday evening was when I opened the door and was immediately greeted, (or should I say overwhelmed?  Bowled over?  Rendered unconscious?), by a blast of hot air reeking intensely of urine.  Coneross State Park, where I stayed this weekend, is one of the many Corps of Engineer parks located throughout SC and Georgia.  All of these parks are really fantastic places to camp and very reasonably priced but, I’m sure, due to the constant budget cuts, they’ve had to cut back a little on some of the amenities.  Once daily cleaning of the restrooms instead of two or three times a day is probably a product of those cuts.  Thankfully, being male and having benefit of “outdoor” plumbing, I didn’t find it necessary to return to the restroom Friday evening; opting instead for whatever tree suited my fancy, (or offered the most privacy).  Saturday morning, when I dared venture toward the restroom again, it had just been cleaned and smelled significantly better.  The loop I was assigned to is also the last loop to still have the old style restrooms with the one screen vent along the top and no air flow inside.  The lack of a new facility, (which is probably in the planning sometime in the near future), is probably because most of the sites on that loop were pull-through sites designed for large campers and motor homes.  Most, if not all, of those beauties have full facilities inside so their owners and denizens don’t have much need of a shower house/restroom.  All of the other restrooms throughout the park were fairly new and, I’m sure, much more user friendly.

My weekend home on the lake.

Weekends like this just make me want to get out into the woods more and more.  If I could make a living camping, I’d be happier than any man alive.  Unfortunately, that’s not possible so I’ll have to take my little piece of Heaven one weekend at a time.  In South Carolina, doing that in the summer without AC isn’t something I’m quite crazy enough to do so the “upgrades,” if you will, will have to be completed quickly and efficiently; and in such a fashion so as to preserve Nosty’s Nook’s “eye candy” appeal.  Guess what I’ll be doing next weekend?  However much work is involved, it will be more than worth it in the pleasure equity it’ll gain from it.

The only other “oh crap” this weekend was when I realized that during the tongue and box repairs last week, (which were a resounding success!), I had, inadvertently, forgotten to repack my Coleman oven in the storage box once it was remounted to the tongue.  That wasn’t a problem for Friday evening’s steak and baked potato extravaganza, (with a delectable cucumber salad in a rather snappy Romano, basil, vinaigrette dressing) .  Those did famously on the red oak fire I had going in the fireplace.  However, it posed a bit of a situation, (dare I say it?  A down right, full fledged, hissy fit), Saturday morning when I went to pop open a can of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, (with real Cinnabon cinnamon, no less), and realized I didn’t have an oven to bake them in.  That was just uncivilized!  My standard camping breakfast; a cold Beck’s Dark and cinnamon rolls, had to be forgone and, (oh, the disgrace), replaced by……..a Beck’s Dark and a Poptart!  Oh the inhumanity!  And I know that blue cinnamon roll can was laughing at me!  Either that, or the heat in the camper had gotten to me worse than I originally thought and I was hallucinating.  I made up for it by having a second beer brat Saturday night; with sauerkraut, Vermont cheddar cheese, jalapeno peppers and mustard!  It’s a rough existence, but someone has to live it.  Amazing how things manage to balance out, isn’t it?

As I mentioned last weekend, the blogs will probably be coming every other week for a while, although, if all goes according to plan, I may be posting next weekend with the results of the great AC debacle of 2011, (as I’m sure this incident will come to be known).  Stay tuned to this channel for film at 11.

As always, feel free to email me anytime with questions, comments or just to warn me ahead of time when the guys in the white coats with the butterfly nets are on my trail.  I love hearing from you and swapping camping stories, home brew beer recipes or just about anything that strikes your fancy.  And, if you have a minute, feel free to comment and vote below to let me know whether you’ve enjoyed the blog, hated the blog or plan on voting for me in the upcoming presidential election.

Most importantly, take a minute this week to step back, look at life and smile.  No matter how bad things seem sometimes, there’s always someone in a whole lot worse shape.  Say a silent prayer for those less fortunate and get back to the business of living; with frequent breaks to stop and smell the roses and enjoy a cold one with friends.  Life truly is grand.

Until next week, I wish you fair winds, following seas and every happiness life has to offer.

Adio,

Brian

All new for 2011!

And, should you be so inclined, The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping has been completely revised for 2011 and is now available as an ebook!  Every ebook dealer from Sony’s iPhone store to Amazon and Barnes and Noble are carrying it.  However, we’re offering a 20% discount for all the loyal readers of Brian’s blog through Smashwords.com.  Just add the coupon code CM84R at checkout and you’ll receive the discount.  Picture this:  Wilderness 2011.  You just bought a new tent and figured it’d be a cinch to set up.  You got out of work late and arrived at the campground after dark.  Ominous dark clouds are looming over your campsite.  You unpack your tent only to realize that you haven’t got a clue about how it goes together and the directions are all in Mandarin Chinese.  What do you do?  Well, if you had a copy of this informative book on your phone or ereading device, you could simply thumb through a few chapters and be roasting marshmallows within the hour.  Don’t have a copy?  Well, there’s a lot to be said for sleeping in the car.  Oh, you have bucket seats?   The kids are loudly voicing their displeasure over sleeping in the back seat…..all night long?   Save yourself the headache.  Order your copy today.

Read Full Post »

Hello my friends.  Welcome back.

As I’m sure you’ve guessed, not a whole lot has been accomplished over the last two weekends.  Hence the lack of a blog last week.  Unfortunately, this week’s blog isn’t going to be one of my more stellar blogs either.  It’s that time of year and this weekend I had a very nice graduation party to attend.  A good time was had by all.   Add to that the fact that it has been an inferno outside and my, up til now, fervent camper-building muse has gone on vacation to a quaint little resort in Antarctica, and you can see why I haven’t been chomping at the bit to get outside and suffer a case of heat stroke.  Just stepping outside after 9AM gives you a very good idea of what a cake feels like going into the oven.  I’ll never look at a chocolate, chocolate surprise cake the same way again…….but I wouldn’t pass up a piece, either.    We had no spring here in South Carolina this year.  We went from an unusually frigid winter to mid-summer, (every day has been, officially, in the high ninety’s……according to my outside thermometer, they have been in the low 100’s), in the matter of a week.  These God-awful temps have, believe it or not, further goosed my burning desire for a garage that much harder and, at present, plans for a garage are in the works.  Since getting the fever for camper building, another project; a stand-up sized TTT, has been formulating, (or fermenting, depending on which school of thought you subscribe to), in my mind.  I’ve learned a great deal from this build and had a great many, “I won’t do that again,” moments in that learning curve.  When that dream comes to fruition, it will be built in a secure, somewhat climate controlled, garage.  I’m not as young as I used to be.  My tolerance for temperature extremes isn’t what it used to be; not to mention the fact that I wasted a whole lot of precious time last spring, waiting for the right temps and cooperative weather to apply fiberglass resin during the Nosty’s Nook build.

I did manage, however, last weekend, to remount the storage box on the newly refurbished tongue so, with the exception of a road test, Nosty’s Nook is ready for next weekend when it will be serving in its’ intended capacity as a camper.  I have reservations at a local campground for, yet another, shake-down cruise.  Talk about trial by fire.  It’s a rough job, but someone has to do it.  Sitting by a lake with a cold, malty beverage in hand, eating “stuff” cooked over an open fire, swatting mosquitoes.  I wish that kind of peace and solitude on each and every one of you; sans the mosquitoes, that is.  Thankfully, the campground is within fifteen miles of home and, at the risk of sounding a little immodest, I have complete faith in the metalwork I did on the tongue so I’m not overly worried about any mishaps in that department.  The rest of the camper has already proven itself road worthy………I hope? *laughing*

I say shame on me in the title of this week’s blog because I had all intentions of towing Das Nook to the scales this weekend and finally finding out what the actual weight of my “light weight” build is.  I’ll need an official scale ticket, along with a list of all the expenditures for everything I’ve put into the build when I get to the registration and titling phase; probably sometime in the very near future, and to answer that unanswered question that’s been gnawing at me since the design phase:  “How much does this dang thang weigh, y’all?”  Based on my initial, estimated calculations from the rough weight chart I had to go by for the various wood weights, the unadorned trailer weight and the guesses I made on a lot of the accessories, my guess, and it is a long shot, is that Nosty’s Nook will weigh in at about 1000 pounds dry, (without any camping gear).   If providence is with me and I can manage to get my crackling bones out of bed in time next Friday, I’ll haul her to the scales before I start loading her up for next weekend’s trip. Working four ten-hour shifts per week has its obvious benefits, and I do enjoy my three day weekends every weekend, but getting up before noon when you didn’t get to bed until five-thirty on a Friday morning isn’t one of them.  Stay tuned for film at 11.  I have a feeling I may be in for a big surprise.

Baring any unforeseen disasters, there will be a blog next weekend with pictures and anecdotes from my weekend in the woods.  However, after next weekend I think it might be better if I  start posting here every other week; at least until I start another project and have more to share.  Nosty’s Nook is now an entity in and of itself and, fortunately or unfortunately, all the major, noteworthy, work has been completed.  All that’s left now is finding just the right accessories and bric-a-brac to make it more suited to my personality, (puke green walls to remind me of the walls at the institution, {Happy Acres Home for the Terminally Insane and Karaoke Bar; my alma mater}, various and sundry pictures of famous torture devices and a battery-operated shock therapy machine for those more trying weekends).  I’ve been researching some graphics for the sides and rear doors to give it a little flair and panache but I haven’t found that “just right” combination yet.  If I’ve learned one thing over the years it’s that patience truly is a virtue.  “Act in haste and repent in leisure.”  When I finally, permanently, adhere something to the sides and rear doors, it won’t be something I’ll regret a few months later.  I still have the front window guard/awning to complete.  My first attempt failed miserably, (fiberglass has become my nemesis).  I’m currently keeping it in my dining room as a blatant reminder that haste makes waste and fiberglass is a communist devised plot designed to drive dimwits like myself further toward Happy Acres and, thereby, eliminating the psycho factor when they try their ill-fated attempt at world domination.  Fortunately I have since rethought that project innumerable times and believe I’ve finally come up with just the right design to add to the overall appearance of the camper; not take away from it.  Another of those “I won’t do that again,” moments, but, being ever the optimist, I look upon it as a, not overly expensive, learning experience.  Then there’s the cabinet doors for the over-the-bunk cabinets in the cabin and it’ll be time for the fat lady to sing.   Another chapter in my crazy life completed with the end result being a very stalwart camper to bring me hours upon of hours of pleasure for many years to come.

Before I end this week I’d like to let the people of Joplin, MO know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers.  May God watch over you all and help you through these terrible times.  One of the families devastated by this tragedy are very active members of the Teardrop and Tiny Travel Trailer community.  They lost their home and their teardrop in that terrible storm.  Thankfully, they all survived.   Many weren’t so lucky.  My prayers go out to all of you.

As always, feel free to email me with thoughts and comments at doc@bgreenleaf.com any time.  I love hearing from you and chewing the fat.  And, if you like, or don’t like, this blog, please vote and/or comment using the buttons below and let me know how I’m doing.

Until next week, may every happiness be yours.

Adio,

Brian

All new for 2011!

And, should you be so inclined, The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping has been completely revised for 2011 and is now available as an ebook!  Every ebook dealer from Sony’s iPhone store to Amazon and Barnes and Noble are carrying it.  However, we’re offering a 20% discount for all the loyal readers of Brian’s blog through Smashwords.com.   Just add the coupon code CM84R at checkout and you’ll receive the discount.  Picture this:  Wilderness 2011.  You just bought a new tent and figured it’d be a cinch to set up.  You got out of work late and arrived at the campground after dark.  Ominous dark clouds are looming over your campsite.  You unpack your tent only to realize that you haven’t got a clue about how it goes together and the directions are all in Mandarin Chinese.  What do you do?  Well, if you had a copy of this informative book on your phone or ereading device, you could simply thumb through a few chapters and be roasting marshmallows within the hour.  Don’t have a copy?  Well, there’s a lot to be said for sleeping in the car.  Oh, you have bucket seats?   The kids are loudly voicing their displeasure over sleeping in the back seat…..all night long?   Save yourself the headache.  Order your copy today.

Read Full Post »

Hola and heidy-ho, my friends.  Welcome back.  I’m glad you stopped by.  At present, I’m like a gushing teenage girl who just saw her BFF’s boyfriend making out with a cheerleader.  I’ve just got to tell someone or I’ll burst!

A very productive weekend, this one.  Currently, I am in a gooey, gelatinous form, (not unlike most New Year’s Eve’s), striving to re-hydrate after a day under a welding hood on an over 100 degree day.  Mom always said I wasn’t her brightest child.  However, this weekend, rain or shine, heat or freezing temperatures, I was motivated by the fact that I should have been making new friends, stealing TTT ideas and swapping stories around the campfire with the great folks from the local Tear Jerker’s chapter but, alas, such was not my lot.  After getting a submariner’s view of the underside of Das Nook on Friday, I realized that my decision to bow out of this weekend’s festivities, however heartbreaking, was a good one.  Had I chanced pulling Das Nook up that steep mountain, last week’s blog might have been my epitaph.  By now, it should be pretty obvious that I’m not one to go out with so few words.  Chalk one up for me.  The damage to the tongue supports was considerably worse than I first thought.

Let me start by admitting, (and this is no excuse), that I have not had a welder in my hand in fifteen years.  I was quite the man with the stick welder back in another life.  However, life and career changes have negated my need to do much welding lo these many years.  To top that off, my new welder is of the MIG variety.  Not an alligator I’ve ever tried to make a suitcase out of  before, but convenience guided my hand in selecting my new toy.  The thought of my having to add a 50 amp, 220VAC circuit/receptacle to an, already overburdened, breaker panel, not to mention the additional expense of some 6-3 SO cable and plug ends to make an extension cord to get from said receptacle to the aforementioned stick welder put the icing on the cake.  The MIG runs on plain old 120VAC /20amp.  I did trip the breaker a couple of times, but I know from experience that the length of extension cord I was using played a part in that.    After a day of familiarizing myself with my new Lincoln Weld Pak 125 HD MIG welder, I can foresee a long and happy relationship together.  It got the 1/4″ thick steel on the original tongue flowing like tears at a wedding.

My point is that the welds I created to form the new tongue frame are a lot like the girl I took to the Happy Acres Cotillion:  butt ugly, but functional as hell: stout and solid.

Since they got her meds right, she never writes?

In my defense, after some selective grinding, (two grinding wheels worth). and much restarting, re-doing and retouching, (once I got the hang of, and fine tuned, Das MIG),  not to mention copious amounts of primer, they look downright snazzy.  Add to that the fact that the box will cover the debauchery and I’m Mr. Wizard!  That’s my story and I sticking to it.

Friday morning:  Finally dragged my night-shift-working, sorry butt out of bed and fit a length of steel under the points where it needed to fit, marked the angles and, after a lot of cussing and pinched fingers, moved the length of 2x3x1/8th to the saw horses and cut them with a steel cutting blade fitted to an old circular saw.  A steel cutting miter saw would have been a Godsend here but, if I were rich, I’d probably lose all of my boyish charm and desire for backyard projects and buy a fifth-wheel camper and a new Dodge Ram truck.  Nah, I’ll never lose my boyish charm and, if I were rich, I’d just have a lot nicer collection of toys to build my dreams with…….Not to mention a garage!  As the majority of you ladies endlessly gripe:  “Men are just full sized little boys.”  To which most men answer, “Neener, neener, neener.  I prefer, “So’s your mama!.”  I grew up in a tough neighborhood.

I managed to get the pieces cut and ground down to fit precisely, then took the rest of the night, and Saturday, off to contemplate the meaning of life.  I’m a very deep thinker so that took until this morning.  Still no answers.  I’ll get back to you when I have my epiphany.

The submariner's view.Sunday Morning:  I finally dragged my, didn’t-work-night-shift-last- night, sorry butt out of bed and walked outside into an oven at nine AM.  Hence this week’s title:  Memoirs from the fifth level of h-e-double hockey sticks.  I ground down all the areas on the original tongue and frame where welds were supposed to go.  I say supposed to go because I’d forgotten how dark the world becomes under a #10 welding hood.  Reminds me of fumbling to find bra strap hooks in the back seat of my 1968 Rambler Ambassador at the drive in………..well, you get the picture.   *brief pause for a moment of retrospective bliss*

I welded the original tongue to the frame brackets so the bolts, originally the only thing holding the tongue to the trailer, are now just an added precaution.  The main tongue is completely welded, top, sides and bottom, to the frame brackets.

Everything tacked into place.

I got everything finagled into place, again amid a chorus of words that would have had my mother washing my mouth out with soap, all while my buddy Manny sat there laughing at me, drawing deeply from a bottle of beer which I had, up til that point, avoided. I usually make it a point not to mix power tools, flames and large amounts of electrical current with intoxicating beverages, regardless of how desert hot it is.  Having Manny around is like having a comedian on retainer.  No matter how disgruntled a situation can get me, one look at his goofy mug and I start laughing.  Thanks for all the laughs, Manny.  And this time he even brought his own beer!  *looking around for the four horsemen*

First coat of primer.

And after a whole lot of sweating, numerous first and second degree burns from flying weld spatter and grinder “renderings,” not to mention a tan three or four shades deeper than my natural, Italian heartthrob, complexion, I give you some tongue.  Get your mind out of the gutter.  That’s Das Tongue.  Let’s keep this blog within the PG rating, please.

This pictorial coming out party is with a first coat of primer on all the bare steel.  I’ll be adding a second coat before the evening’s over and, if it cools off a little, possibly a first coat of the Rustoleum glossy black that is the patina du jour for the entire undercarriage.

Next weekend, that being Memorial Day Weekend, will be spent mounting the box directly onto the new tongue frame:  not to the front of the camper.  There should now be minimal flex in the tongue, but I’m not taking any further chances.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned over my many, many, many………..years as a student of all things in the manly art of tools and the things we cobble together with them, it’s that you learn from your mistakes and do your level best to never make them again.

And, as if to represent the creamy head on the tastiest beer I’ve had in a long time, since the addition of the new framework, getting Das Nook to sit down on her front wheel is as easy as a fat kid bringing down his end of the seesaw with Nerdy Melvin on the other end.  Once I add the box, the weight distribution and tongue weight should be back to where it should be, eliminating the need for that 80 lb. bag of concrete and, consequentially, my shame.  Another wrong righted by that goofy thing we all call kismet.  I’ll take luck over skill any day.

Well my dear friends, it is at this time that I must bid you adieu, but only for now.  I just heard a beer popping in the kitchen which can only mean one thing:  It’s Sunday night and the gang’s all here.  I must admit that my chest is swelling, just a bit, mind you, over the premise of showing off this weekend’s handy work to these Bohemians I’m proud to call my friends.  Now if I could just get them trained to show up when the work is actually in progress, bring their own beer, and lift the seat when they dispose of my beer in my guest bathroom, (that is, when they’re not using the big pine tree behind the Big Top), I’d be selling that story to every woman’s magazine out there as the miracle of the twenty-first century.  While somewhat refined, (trained, if you will), I’m still a guy so, should I manage that miracle, I’d have to take that secret with me to my grave.  It’s a guy thing.

May this week be the best week you’ve ever had, may something truly wonderful come your way and may you never have reason to frown for all the rest of your days.

Until next week, I wish you all the best life has to offer.

Adio,

Brian

All new for 2011!

And, should you be so inclined, The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping has been completely revised for 2011 and is now available as an ebook!  Every ebook dealer from Sony’s iPhone store to Amazon and Barnes and Noble are carrying it.  However, we’re offering a 20% discount for all the loyal readers of Brian’s blog through Smashwords.com.   Just add the coupon code CM84R at checkout and you’ll receive the discount.  Picture this:  Wilderness 2011.  You just bought a new tent and figured it’d be a cinch to set up.  You got out of work late and arrived at the campground after dark.  Ominous dark clouds are looming over your campsite.  You unpack your tent only to realize that you haven’t got a clue about how it goes together.  What do you do?  Well, if you had a copy of this informative book on your phone, you could simply thumb through a few chapters and be roasting marshmallows within the hour.  Don’t have a copy?  Well, there’s a lot to be said for sleeping in the car.  Oh, you have bucket seats?   The kids will be voicing their displeasure over sleeping in the back seat…..all night long?   Save yourself the headache.  Order your copy today.

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Buono Pomeriggio! (Good Afternoon), my friends.  I hope you’ve all had as wonderful a weekend as I’ve had.

Believe it or not, this sign was posted on the road leading to the boat ramp at Watsadler, on beautiful Lake Hartwell in Hartwell, GA, where I de-stressed this weekend.  Considering that the road leads to a boat ramp that is amply marked as such, this sign would seem redundant.  Apparently not, or they wouldn’t have wasted the money on such expensive signage; especially considering the dire financial situation all state and national parks are in these days.  Doesn’t say much for our local driving populace, does it?

The latest evidence of the recreational area’s financial hardship to come to my attention was that the individual trash cans that were once a staple at all the campsites have been removed.  It is now the responsibility of the camper to tote their trash to the dumpsters at the dump station by the exit.  Apparently, a cut in head count and the need to further cut costs at all costs, (trash pick-up, trash can maintenance and replacement, etc.), has further affected the amenities at recreation areas throughout the country.  Not that I’m complaining about having to haul trash.  That’s a minor inconvenience.  It’s the deeper ramifications behind those cuts that bother me.

The campground was, as always, in stellar shape.  The grass was manicured, the restrooms were clean, (although not cleaned as often as they used to be), and the sites were clean, roomy and beautiful.   I just fear for the fate of our state and national parks as I see the small amenities going by the wayside.  Camping has always been an affordable and truly special and worthwhile pursuit for families wanting to spend time together in the outdoors; far away from the boob tube and the Xbox.  I’m afraid that, given the current budget cut trends, what few state parks manage to survive those budget cuts will have to charge as much per night as a night in a luxury hotel just to stay afloat and will become inaccessible to the very people who benefit most from them.  The current rate for most of the state parks in my area is around $22 per night, (tax included), with water and electricity.  That’s $44 per weekend.  That rate has more than doubled since my children were younger and we were camping, at least, two weekends a month.  Now $44 for a weekend doesn’t seem at all bad considering that you have to buy groceries whether you’re home or camping, (and once you have all your gear), so, while your grocery bill might be just a wee bit more, (adding marshmallows, graham crackers and Hershey bars for the requisite smores), the added expenses are minimal and $44 is still, pretty much, do-able for most of us.  But what if that doubles again, to $88 for a weekend, within the next few years because funding for these parks is cut further?  Will it still be a viable, affordable way for the average, working class family to spend a weekend together enjoying our natural resources?  What’s going to happen when the budget is cut so deeply that state and national parks start closing their gates completely?  Surprise, surprise:  it’s happening daily and at an alarming rate.  Will our grandchildren still be able to take their children camping for a weekend, or will they have to read about it in the history books?  Everyone’s politics are their own business, but please consider this when you decide on your candidates at the polls in the next election.  When free senate haircuts and the myriad of other freebies and perks for our elected officials remain in play, yet our state and national treasures suffer and may even become inaccessible to “We the People,” it’s time for a change.  Elected officials do still work for us, don’t they?

*stepping off the soap box* Sorry about the influx of politics, but this situation rocks me to my very core.  I’ll be writing a few letters to my representatives in Washington and if I don’t get the answers I’m looking for, I’ll do my part as a registered voter to insure their ride on my tax dollar funded gravy train is over.

Better than Prozac!

Anyway, this picture pretty much sums up my weekend.  The weather was about as nice as you could ask for; high 70’s with the occasional passing cloud during the day and low 50’s at night.  No heat or AC were needed this weekend.  Sleeping with the windows and roof vent open, smelling the pines on the lake breeze and the occasional whiff of frying bacon in the morning  just added additional fluff to an already perfect weekend.  Throw in the sesame-ginger marinated London Broil, roasted over the coals, and the baked potato Friday night, and the grilled Italian sausage, onion and pepper hoagies with Provolone cheese and potato salad Saturday night, (and a few malty beverages), and I reiterate this weekend’s title, “Ahhhhhhhh!”

I did have one technical difficulty this weekend but I’m hoping that’ll be easily corrected next weekend.  Sometime during the trip to the campground, (probably after I momentarily lost sight of the Das Nook in the rearview as it plummeted into one of the many, ever-present, man-eating potholes that have become an epidemic around here), a crack started along one of the box mounts between the front of the camper and the tongue storage box.  I’m presently rethinking the addition of the brackets from the tongue to the box that I bolted on last weekend, but the problem would still persist whether the brackets are there or not.  The tongue itself is mounted to the trailer frame by one huge bolt through a bracket under the camper.  This allows some flex and presents a bit of a pivot point.  The minor flex experienced along a normal road is of no significance, but hitting pot holes and bouncing down a lot of the rugged, rutty, back roads leading to some campgrounds will allow the tongue to pivot and flex enough to overpower the added strength the brackets added and flex the box as well.  I’m either going to have to permanently weld the tongue to that bracket, or drill and tap a couple of additional holes through the tongue and bracket and add some graded bolts to take all the pivot out of the tongue.  I’m hashing the situation out as I write this and I’m pretty sure I’ll have the answer before next weekend.  If not, I may have to skip the four hour drive to Jefferson, NC for the Tear Jerker’s camping trip on the 20th.  I certainly don’t want to miss that, but I don’t want to find myself four hours from home, on the semi-deserted Skyline Parkway, with something broken that can’t be fixed on the road.  I have some great friends, but asking one of them to make a four hour drive, one way, to rescue my stupid, stranded butt would probably be pushing the envelope a little.

Das Ambiance. Mamba, anyone?

The Coleman canopy was definitely a worthwhile buy.  I read and re-read numerous reviews on the pros and cons of the various easy-up canopies on the market these days, then checked out quite a few before I decided on the Coleman.  One thing that really caught my eye was the fact that the fly is UV protected.  If you’ve ever seen a sun-rotted tarp, (the Big Top, home to Das Nook in my back yard is a great example), you’d agree.  As has always been my experience with anything Coleman, this canopy is a winner; and the fact that I found it on clearance over the winter just makes it that much sweeter.  The entire mechanism is really stout and it almost sets itself up.  You basically take the frame out of the wheeled, heavy duty, zippered storage case it came in, pull the frame open, drape the fly over the frame and extend the legs.  I’m the village idiot and I had no problems whatsoever getting it up in about five minutes.  If I can do it, anyone can.  Once you have it up, there are stout, Velcro-lined, tabs to secure the fly along the frame and there is even Velcro at the top on all four corner posts that mate with Velcro patches sewn into the fly itself.  For added wind protection, each corner has a tie-down rope extending from the flap on the fly.  For true anchoring, there are stake holes in each, heavy gauge, metal foot.  What made it even more versatile this weekend was when I attached a tarp across the frame with bungee cords to act as a shower/privacy curtain behind the galley doors and had a nice warm shower to test the efficacy of Das Shower.  I must admit that it felt a little strange, (yet somewhat exhilarating),  standing there naked with campers on either side of me, but there were no screams of horror, ladies fainting or villagers showing up with pitchforks to slay the monster so, apparently, the test was a complete success.  I’m still working on some of the intricacies to fine-tune the shower process but, for all intents and purposes, it was a worthwhile addition which, I’m certain, will get a lot of use in the years to come.

Das Schnaps lights

They don’t make beer bottle string lights……..at least not that I’ve found……..yet.  Martini glasses just kind of give the impression that we’re high brow nose-wavers; not the message I care to send, but these were the only lights ABC Distributing had on their clearance page so this is what I’ll have to light my area with until I can find some Beck’s or Newscastle lights.  Of course, one glimpse of me in my aviator’s helmet and goggles would dispel any thought of my being snooty or upper crust: and there’s always Lulu!  She just reeks of middle class: especially in the Walmart bikini bottom she was wearing this weekend.   You can take the mannequin out of Walmart, (Lulu literally was an underwear mannequin, or so I was told, in Walmart before they retired her), but you can’t take Walmart out of the mannequin.  Such is life.

Well, my friends, I have coolers to clean and smoke-scented laundry to wash, so that’s all for this week.

As a parting thought, I’d just like to mention again that there is no better stress reliever than a weekend in the woods.  With downsizing and fewer people to do even more work than before for, at least, forty hours per week; not to mention bills and the myriad of problems that everyone faces in their day to day existence, stress is like a visit from your mother-in-law:  It’s coming whether you want it to or not and it ain’t going to be pretty.  If you don’t find a way to alleviate that stress, it’ll eat away at your very core.  Borrow a tent from Uncle Claud.  Rent a camper for a weekend.  Whatever it takes, jump off life’s expressway for a weekend and find out how relaxing a weekend in the mountains or by the beach can be.  You won’t regret it.

Until next weekend, I wish you peace, good luck and every happiness.

Per la buona vita! (To the good life).

Brian

All new for 2011!

And, should you be so inclined, The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping has been completely revised for 2011 and is now available as an ebook!  Every ebook dealer from Sony’s iPhone store to Amazon and Barnes and Noble are carrying it.  However, we’re offering a 20% discount for all the loyal readers of Brian’s blog through Smashwords.com.   Just add the coupon code CM84R at checkout and you’ll receive the discount.  Picture this:  Wilderness 2011.  You just bought a new tent and figured it’d be a cinch to set up.  You got out of work late and arrived at the campground after dark.  Ominous dark clouds are looming over your campsite.  You unpack your tent only to realize that you haven’t got a clue about how it goes together.  What do you do?  Well, if you had a copy of this informative book on your phone, you could simply thumb through a few chapters and be roasting marshmallows within the hour.  Don’t have a copy?  Well, there’s a lot to be said for sleeping in the car.  Oh, you have bucket seats?   The kids will be voicing their displeasure over sleeping in the back seat…..all night long?   Save yourself the headache.  Order your copy today.

Read Full Post »

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