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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A-Camping We Will Go...

Such a nice little campsite... the fire place is off to the left.
I mentioned I had taken a vacation recently. A camping trip. I have not been camping since the boys were little. That horrible experience firmly decided me that I was too old for camping ...for the next 18 years! But, with finances being so tight, air travel such a nuisance now, hotels so expensive, and the cost of renting a cabin just out of reach the old tent started to look a lot better. Last year when I went to Michigan I discovered some great camping places. The best part is they are totally free! OK, so cost was the deciding factor here. It was camping for free, or nothing. See ...camping sounds better already.

My local town has a Corn Festival every Summer. It is a big deal locally, and draws nearly 15,000 people. Since my girlfriend and I planned to attend anyway, we decided at the last minute to get a vender's space. She had been doing this at some other festivals in the past selling her original creations. She sews aprons, purses, tote bags, bibs, place mats, table runners, blankets, and a bunch of other stuff in which as a guy I have almost no interest whatsoever. But she is very good at what she does, and her products are creative and high quality. Well, one booth turned into three, and we did very well at this one-day show.

I had been thinking about going camping for several weeks. I am extremely good at thinking about doing things. On the spur of the moment we decided to go because we had some profit from the festival.

In fact, we had enough extra profits left over to pay for the gas to Manistee National Forest in Michigan. (I just checked, and we drove a total of 777 miles round trip) Since a bright red, top-down, Jeep JK 4-door Wrangler Rubicon (Ruby) only gets about 18 MPG with a tail-wind and closely following a big truck this is no small expense. Especially when there is no money to spare. We had a headwind most of the way, and I was passing all those big trucks, so that sucking sound you may have heard was from the gas tank. It was worth it!

We arrived in the late afternoon on Monday, and searched around the area for a couple hours looking for a place to camp. After a couple hours of finding nothing but pay-sites costing up to $14 a night, of course we ended up right back at the very first place we had looked at. Just so you know: Dispersed Camping as it is called in Manistee National Forest is OK and free just about anywhere, but has no potties, no fire rings, and no picnic tables - totally rustic. The sites are just pull-offs along some of the dirt roads, unless you backpack in which case it is almost anywhere. The $14 per night pay-sites have picnic tables, fire rings, water, and potties. They are all primitive as there is no shower or flushing to be found just pits and hand-pumps, but they are the more typical campsite areas. We got lucky, and accidentally found a FREE campground with water, picnic tables, and fire rings. After talking with the Rangers we found that there are a few such places scattered around, and several others with rates as low as only $5 a night. Yes, we found a totally FREE campground with full primitive amenities such as they are. The bathroom was clean ...and there was a bathroom! WooHoo!

Smartly, we had practiced setting up the tent on Sunday. Not so much to practice, but more to see of it was still in one piece after sitting in the attic for 18 years. Happily, it was fine, and I remembered how it all went together. The tent is a vintage Riverside Lodge by Eureeka made of heavy canvas with aluminum poles. It is much heavier than the current crop of nylon dome-style tents I usually see. A very comfortable, and roomy 8x10 cabin-style tent. That means you can stand up anywhere inside of it because it has straight walls. Such luxury!

Way back in about 1974 or so I designed, and built a camp-kitchen. It is basically a large wooden box to sit on the end of a picnic table and house the cook-stove, and all the stuff you need to cook up a gourmet meal at a campsite. I still have it, and it still works great. We had everything we needed, and were all set up with a beautiful campsite in less than half an hour.

Camping was very easy with my Frontotemporal Degeneration's symptoms. My FTD did not really have any negative impact at all. Camping, when it goes smoothly and you are prepared, is very relaxing. There is almost no stress. No phone service was available. No computers. No television. Not even any neighbors. The whole campground was empty, with the exception of one other camper about a half mile away. No worries, and plenty of time to procrastinate. Yes we made lists so we didn't forget anything, and of course my girlfriend helped keep me on track as always, but overall it was easy. Camping seems a very good fit with my particular set of symptoms.

We spent the second day driving the Jeep all over the place exploring the parks off-road trails. Some of them were actually named roads and were in Ruby's GPS, with ruts and craters in them several feet deep, and overhanging branches hitting the windshield, and us because of course we had the top was down so we could collect more twigs, pine needles, leaves, spiders, and other stuff in the back of the Jeep as we explored. We drove about 100 miles off-road.

The third day there we did a little shopping in the bustling city of Manistee, MI. We walked along the river, and visited a few of the antique shops there. It was easy not to buy anything. Being really poor has that side effect. We finally got bored with the town and shopping, and did some more exploring.

I got a little sunburned walking along the river. Sunburn is a side-effect of several medications I take, and I turn red in just a few minutes if I am not careful. That is why you almost always see me wearing a hat with a wide brim. A Tilly, of course!

We spent Thursday packing up and driving home. No rush, but we had to return for some doctors appointments. We both wanted to stay longer, and should have. Since most all of the expense is in the gas getting to and from an extra couple of days would have cost nothing extra, and we had taken enough food for a week.

Oh! Yeah! We took a few pictures, so you may want to check out the following post cuz that is where I am gonna put a few of them.

So, just because I was diagnosed with FTD I have not stopped living my life. Yes, my life has changed drastically over the past several years, but it is certainly not over. I do not dwell on my diagnosis, or my symptoms ...well, maybe sometimes, but I try not to. I am always aware of both, or I am made aware of them because they are always there, but some days are better than others, and most days are pretty good.

Can't wait to go camping again. Never thought I'd have that thought again after the miserable (but fun, and funny!) times I had 18 years ago.

Comments are always welcome.

Just stopped back to this post to make an addition. As with every trip I have taken in the past couple of years it has taken me a few days to get back into my routine. I just want to veg out, and do nothing. I just closed the doors, and caught up on some old movies ...but I am not sure which ones. Oh well. Today was better. It has been almost 2 weeks since the trip, and I am starting to feel more normal. The trip was well worth it.



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