Friday, August 31, 2012

Practical Scamping: Hurricane Isaac Edition

Before my parents retired a year ago, my dad would muse about a dream of hooking up their fifth wheel to their truck and hooking up their cargo trailer to the fifth wheel and going from one disaster site to another, helping out, helping rebuild.  They're retired, after all, no commitments except those to family (my 89-year-old feisty grandmother and my 2-year-old sprite of a niece taking precedence over their three daughters, as they absolutely should).  And I could see my parents doing that, out there among fallen trees, my dad with his trusty DeWalt saws in as many varieties as he can pack into his trailer (he has a sisters and I think he should share with us...), my seriously adorable mother with a tool belt around her waist.  Mom doesn't have a tool belt, but I think she should have one.  My parents like to be productive, to give and give back.  It's a part of their personal philosophies handed down from their parents and they've handed it down to my sisters and me.

The semester started last week and it feels like the end of Week 2, that point where the adrenaline has worn off and I actually need to rely on things like sleep and caffeine to get me through a day.  Eventually I won't need the caffeine as much until the last third of the semester.  Today, though, there's strong Assam in my mug and I need every bit of caffeine I can get out of it.  It's a beautiful morning, one that dawned very, very early.

But it's also Friday after Isaac's landfall and my dear friend M's Facebook status tells me that he, his wife, and their two-year-old son are safe in New Orleans after Isaac's visit.  They still don't have any power (second night) and they're sleeping on the porch to try to get away from the heat.  It's going to be 95 in Lincoln today, so adding general New Orleans humidity and specific Isaac humidity to the mix and I'm sure they're all just miserable.  I'm just glad they're safe and if there's damage to their house, it wasn't enough to share with us.  They're the lucky ones.  Now that the RNC is over, the damage that Isaac caused is moving to center stage and we're getting an idea of what their recovery process will look like.  I wish I had my Scamp, because I would take it down to storm-hit areas, hitch up my tool belt and see what I could do to help.

It's not going to happen.  My parents are going Up North this weekend for a friend's birthday and they're going to put a tarp over my Scamp, to protect it from the winter.  I wish that I had it down here (spiders notwithstanding), even though I can't get away from the semester until Fall Break in October, and I know that help will still be needed in October.  I know from my own experience with various floods and tornadoes that help tends to appear, almost overwhelmingly, right after a disaster hits--but then it goes away, people forget, and there's more to do.  So I could still be useful in October.  But it's not going to happen this year--and that makes me regret that I can't help.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Practical Scamping: Moorhead Edition

This last week, I took the Scamp and the cats to Moorhead, which is about an hour and a half from where I've been spending the summer, and had a great time with my friend Dawn.  I parked the Scamp in her driveway, the perfect epitome of Practical Scamping.  She's got dogs and I've got cats (fraidy cats, even), and I can't leave them by themselves, so that's why they came with me.  It was seriously hot in Moorhead, but my AC kept up just fine (and Galway didn't pee on anything, so I count that as a good trip).

The goal of the trip was to help Dawn with the chapter of her book that's had her stymied and she was helping me with my paper on Joseph O'Connor's Star of the Sea.  See my other blog, State of Mind:  Adventures in Place-Conscious Teaching, for a more extended discussion of O'Connor.  I'm in the midst of my comps for my PhD and this paper is part of the portfolio I'm doing for that.  The last major hurdle before my dissertation.  And I'm taking this paper on O'Connor and using it for the paper I'm giving at the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures conference in Montreal in two weeks, so no pressure on getting it right.

Dawn and I have been friends for fifteen years (dang, I'm getting old) and recently we've started collaborating in the teaching sphere.  This spring, we both taught O'Connor's novel to our respective classes (she to her literature class, me to my creative writing class) and collaborated in a wiki space.  It had its ups and downs, but was a pretty cool experience overall.

So I sat at her kitchen table working, she was in her office, and by Thursday morning, we were in good shape.  She'd pounded out that chapter, I'd gotten a working draft of my paper.  Whew.  We both said that we wouldn't have gotten to that point without the physical presence of the other, for moral support as well as how much it helps to have somebody working in your vicinity.  It makes you work harder.

It's also fun to talk Irish lit with somebody who knows what you're talking about.

The only hiccup in the whole experience was my AC (again), though what I suspect is that when the very nice guy at the Scamp factory fiddled with my AC, I think he stripped out one of the screws, so my AC is hanging drunkenly from my ceiling.  I need to find some time that I can go to Backus this week and have them fix it.  I'm not messing with fiberglass and stripped screws.

But everything else was awesome.  Temperature control was good, cat issues were good, we figured out (again) how to function in 60 square feet (seems like every trip requires starting from scratch on that).  No problems setting up, no problems tearing down.  And when I was in residential Fargo on Wednesday night, I saw a 13-foot Scamp on the way home.

I heart my Scamp.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Adventures in Scamping: Interstate State Park, MN

This might be my only Scamping trip of the summer, so I went to Interstate State Park, in Taylor's Falls, MN.  It's in Chisago County, just north of the Cities, and it's where all my Swedish ancestors came from.  It was hot and muggy and I was glad for the AC in the Scamp, though the humidity seemed to be too much for it and it started to leak inside.  Oh, well.  Could have been worse.  

Unfortunately, the park was interesting geologically (glacial potholes), but boring visually.  Yup, it's a rock and a hole in it.  And I'm not usually so bored by geology.  So I went hunting gravestones.

Chisago Lake Lutheran Church in Center City.  Old, Swedish, and awesome.  This would be the ancestral church of my family.

Grave of my great-great-great grandparents, Lars and Ingre Thorsander, who immigrated to Chisago County in 1869.  I've been to these places and these stones before, but sometimes it's really nice to revisit.

My great-great grandparents, Albert and Josie Olson (Lars and Ingre's daughter).  They also lived at the house (below).  My grandmother has wonderful, fond stories of her grandparents.  And the story is that he was the sickly one, but she died first of a stroke (you'll see that their death years are the same); and he died a month later of a broken heart.

The house that Lars built when they got here, just north of Shafer.  It's a bed and breakfast now, no longer in our family, but if you get the chance, you should stay there!  Lois and Sally say that the ghost of my great-great-great grandmother Ingre still makes mischief there.

Stopped by Mecca, aka the Scamp factory in Backus, on the way home.  Can't get the front window to stop leaking, no matter what I've done, so they just popped it out and replaced the seal, easy peasy, 20 minutes.  But the best part of the whole experience was backing the Scamp into the garage, first try, and when I get out of the car, the guy who was helping me is just gaping at me.  I said I was worried I'd embarrass myself trying to back it in and he said that they get 40-50-60 year old guys in here who can't back theirs up as well.  I rode that bit of pride all the way home.  No, I'm not cocky about backing up my Scamp...


I have more pictures and more stories, but the fun of the whole thing was how many conversations about Scamping and solo camping I had in the park campground.  The campground manager wanted to know if Scamping was like getting an Apple and I said it was.  Cult-like status, a bit of feeling superior over every other camper, and once you go Scamp you never go back.

Interior Redo, Finally!

So, last week I took my first real Scamping trip of the season (to Interstate State Park in Taylor's Falls, MN) and all the redecorating and such was done.  And it was awesome.  Only real trouble was that the heat and humidity was too much for the AC and it started to drip on the inside, so I was doubly thankful for the new vinyl floor (a wet carpet would have sucked, a lot).  So, here's the tour of the new interior!

Brand new floor, easy to clean up!

New front curtains!

The real purpose of the new bedspread, to keep kitty butt off my pillows.

And also, to provide Mr. Spine of Steel with a place to hide.

New bedspread and new curtains.  Loooove.

Nothing really new here, except for the new lamp.  
Next summer, I'm making new cupboard doors.

Closet door, closed.

Shelves are the same; new shoe holder thingies on the door.

Drawer is the same.

New little lamp is awesome ($5 at Goodwill); and the gray thing is a little vacuum ($5 at Goodwill), which helps keep the new vinyl floor clean.  Seriously awesome.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Let the Sewing Begin, Day 1!

I should probably wait until I have the whole shebang done, but I'll have to settle for updating.  Since I found my curtain fabric in the basement, I pulled out my mother's sewing machine and started on the curtains for the Scamp.  I got some good help from Maeve, who felt the need to inspect my work.  This is the "Wall of Drapes" I got at a garage sale last summer and there's more fabric here than I can measure.  It's a gorgeous dusty blue and there's a strip of brown on the bottom of it.

The first (and I think only) camping trip of the summer is happening this weekend (though I don't know where I'm going yet), so I need to get the curtains done, the inside and outside cleaned up, and then packed up.  

All the while, I still need to be reading like a maniac for my comps.  Still, it's a good distraction.

Maeve, inspecting.  "Measure twice, cut once!"

Maeve, pulling out my pins.  Twerp.

The second curtain is done!  (Apparently I didn't take a picture of the first successful blue curtain...) I think the material was a shower curtain, but I'm not sure about that.  But it's the same colors as the main fabric and it's a neat change in pattern.  (This is the front window.)

Maeve, hanging out on the bed cushions.

And the final project of the first day was taking the bedspread I got at Goodwill, cut it to fit the bed, then took the excess and sewed it to the top to create enough to cover the pillows.  I want to serge the rough edge, but that's going to have wait for my mother's expertise.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New Floor!

It's been rainy, rainy, rainy the last week Up North, but there are worse things than being damp on 3rd Crow Wing, staring out the picture window.  We got our first pileated woodpecker a couple of days ago and that was exciting.

The parentals spent a few days with me and yesterday, Dad and I finished up the new floor in the Scamp. It's just vinyl (the same that's on the dinette floor) and we used brass-colored trim to anchor it to the floor.  I didn't tear up the carpet.  For some reason, I have an aversion to doing things that can't be reversed later.

We established two rules when we started:  Rule 1, no blood.  Rule 2, we need to still be speaking to each other at the end.  Dad didn't break Rule 1 till the end...  And the sad things was that cutting the trim to size was really a one-person job and I don't trust me with the Dremel.  So while Dad was cutting trim, I was working on cleaning out the window drains, which were clogged with the dirt and dust and bug parts that it accumulated after being outside for the winter.  (I thought it was supposed to be inside--if I'd have known it would be outside, I would have covered it in a tarp...)  I think I mostly got it to work, but I guess we'll see.  Next step in the whole process is to shop vac things again, take a bucket of soapy water to the surfaces and interiors, then make the bed and put up the curtains.  Then take a bucket of soapy water to the exterior and get it all pretty.

So here's the pics of the floor project:

Daisy, supervising.  (She got spayed last week, hence the cone.)

Daddy and Dremel

Air ratchet!

Bird's Eye view of the new floor.

Under the dead space under the dinette.

Inside the door.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Spring Cleaning, With Help

This weekend, I finally got up enough nerve to get into the Scamp, brave whatever eight-legged creatures might still be lurking in there, and start to clean it up for the summer.  Daisy, my parents' six-month-old golden doodle was quite helpful.  So was Dad's shop vac.  The parentals were over at the Cabin for a few days after they moved out of their house, but they went back to DL on Saturday, because Daisy has a spa appointment today, puppy class tonight, and then she gets spayed tomorrow.  All eight legs will be back to the lake on Wednesday.

First step, naturally, was to get all the stuff out of there so I could vacuum. My bike traveled north in the Scamp, my zero gravity chair was still in there, and so all of it came out.  And no spiders showed themselves.  My mother commented, "It sure takes a whole lot less time to clean the Scamp than it does the Excel!"  (The Excel is their 33' fifth wheel.)  Lots of dead Asian beetles and flies in there, the first step towards cleaning it.  Getting the big stuff off the top so I can take some bleach or whatever to the surfaces.  The bedding and such is all clean and ready to go, but I'm not making the bed or anything till everything is clean.  Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that I need to clean out the channels in the windows so they'll drain, otherwise I'll be back to the familiarity of leaky windows--and I solved that problem two years ago.

But once I got the vacuuming done, I wasn't ready to quit.  I decided to take the vinyl flooring that I'd used a few years ago to cover the floor of the dinette and cover the main floor of the Scamp with it--much easier to clean.  It took me a while to get it cut to size (and various muscles are still complaining...) and on one of these trips to town, I'll get what I need to secure it, permanently, to the floor.  Looks really nice, though.  I also took the plastic over-the-door shoe holder that I'd been saving for a while, cut it to fit, and then staple-gunned it to the back of various closet doors.  I know I should have painted the backs of the doors before I did it, but I have a dream of replacing those particle board doors with plywood before too long.  Maybe I'll let Dad break in his new shop once he gets to Minneapolis.

The irritating news of the weekend--and maybe of the whole Scamping season--is that the material I bought last summer and saved to make curtains for the Scamp this summer is buried somewhere in the packed storage unit that is my parents' house.  And they don't close on their new house till the end of June, probably don't move in till the middle of July.  I'm so disappointed and irritated (it's my own fault, but I thought it was all at the Cabin, with the rest of the bedding)--but the good news is that the old curtains are accessible, in with the rest of the bedding.  Sigh.  Guess it's going to have to wait till next summer.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Northward, Ho!

I've been Up North for a week now, though it's been a weird kind of week.  I left Nebraska in the wee hours last Friday and arrived at my parents' house in the afternoon.  Their house closing is today (or was, this morning) and when I walked into the house, LOTS needed to be done still.  I may have had a small panic attack.  So instead of spending any time in my Scamp, cleaning it out, getting rid of unwanted squatters, I left the Scamp in the driveway and spent the next few days packing the parental abode.

Saturday, the Scamp got new shoes.  Three new tires to celebrate its 10th birthday.  I don't know why putting new tires on a vehicle is so unbelievably unsatisfying (I had to get new tires on the Jeep over Christmas), but it is.  Usually preventative maintenance makes me feel self-righteous, like I should be rewarded for doing something I should be doing anyway, but that's not now I felt with the tires.  Oh, well.  Thank you, tax return.

On Monday afternoon, Galway, Maeve, Scamp and I drove the hour east towards the Cabin, where I plan to spend the bulk of my summer, working on my comps.  I backed the Scamp into the driveway with no problem, slightly disappointed that there was nobody around for me to crow about how good I was at backing up the thing.  It's Friday now and it's not all unpacked yet.  No rush, really.

To say that the Cabin is sacred space doesn't quite cover it.  My grandparents built this little place the summer my mother was pregnant with me and it's been the only real constant place in our lives, since we moved a lot when I was a kid.  We did spent 17 years in Nevis, but there was a lot of moving before and since.  This is the physical place that holds my greatest memories.  And there's nothing better than to wake to loons.  They're very helpful to sing away burnout.

I don't have any specific plans yet when I'll take the Scamp out, but I do have that gift certificate for the MN State Parks.  I think there will be some Practical Scamping going on, as my parents move to Minneapolis and we move Gram to her new nursing home down there, but those plans aren't set yet either.  For now, it just feels really, really good to sit on the couch at the Cabin, with tea and pajama pants, watch the trees and the lake, and read.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Baby's Back Home!

Let the 2012 Scamping Season begin!

Well, sort of.  Picked up the Scamp this morning from where it was stored about twenty miles west of Lincoln--and this is the kind of thing that just makes me love my life.  The very nice couple who let me put the Scamp on their property was the high school friend of my dad's former secretary.  We had a massively awesome thunderstorm last night--though it sounds like Milford got it worse than we did (maybe twice as much rain?), so driving out there was pretty muddy and I needed to put the Jeep in four-wheel-drive to feel like I had any traction on the dirt (mud) road.

When I got to their farm, the Scamp looked like it had been under a tree during a good storm, covered in leaves and dirt.  Poor baby.  And the tires were three inches deep in mud.  Wasn't terribly worried, because I have faith in the four-wheel-drive.  Maybe too much faith, but it hasn't let me down yet.  The only major problem was that when I hooked up the electrical, nothing happened--no turn signals, no brake lights, no lights on the trailer.  Nothing we tried got them to work, so I drove back to Lincoln without lights on the trailer.  I was not a fan of this prospect, but what were the alternatives?

My friend Aubrey went with me, because we haven't had a chance to catch up here at the end of the semester, so it was nice to have somebody to talk to on the way and back.  (And it was nice to see that the time it takes me to get comfortable pulling the Scamp has decreased every spring when I've picked it up.)  But we drove right to Leach Campers at 27th and Cornhusker--and I walked in, talked to the Service people, told them my problem.  They said they were really busy, really backed up, but they came right out and looked at the electrical anyway.  Turned out that it was a connector or something on the Jeep that had corroded and it looked pretty easy peasy for the guy to replace it.  And even better, they didn't charge me for it.  So:  if you're in Lincoln and need a camper place, stop by Leach.  They were awesome.

My plan is to head Up North tomorrow, leaving before the sun gets up.  So I've been packing up the Jeep, putting my bike in the Scamp.  Thank goodness the rain has passed.  So far, the cats don't think anything is amiss, which is good, because when they start getting freaked out about me leaving, life gets annoying (even if they're going with, which they are).

And then I'm loading stuff into the car and the camper and here comes crawling a spider down the front window.  Black, hairy, about the size of my thumbnail, gray and black legs, freaky as hell.  Squish.  It didn't occur to me until later that squishing it hampered its identification, but such is life.  So, my plan for the cats and me to sleep in the Scamp in my parents' driveway tomorrow night is likewise squished. Nobody is going to sleep in there until I've thoroughly fumigated and cleaned it.  Not happening.    The cats are just going to have to deal with my parents' puppy.  As it stands right now, I have my cadre of entomologist friends on Facebook trying to help me identify it--which has now turned from serious to ridiculous--but it doesn't really matter.  It's not getting slept in till it gets cleaned.  But I do have the best friends in the world.

But I'm still really excited to have the Scamp hitched to my Jeep.  There are few things in the world that make me as happy.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Feels Like an Update

Just to let you know, I'm still here! I haven't posted for an insanely long time, mostly because this grad student financial situation doesn't really lend itself well to traveling much. But since this January weather is not exactly winter weather, my Scamp cravings are starting to poke their heads through, along with the daffodils and crocuses. Please don't. It's only January. The semester doesn't end till May.

But it's been a good morning in terms of Scamp life. I filed my taxes this morning and my return will allow me to replace the tires on my ten year old Scamp. Happy Birthday, Little Scamp!

My Scamp has been stored this winter at a-friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend and when I went to winterize it, I found it full of spiderwebs, the Halloween-density kind, and so I hope the stuff I put in there keeps them out--though I'm definitely not sleeping in there until I've thoroughly fumigated and bleached and vacuumed and cursed a lot.

But the other plan for the spring is to hijack my mother's sewing machine and redecorate the interior. The layout itself is pretty perfect, so I don't know that Dad and I will do much tinkering with it this summer--but I have material for curtains (garage sale), a coverlet (Goodwill), and it's going to look great. The colors are brown and muted light blue-ish, so it'll be classy without being overly thematic. Of course, the coverlet may or may not stand up to the claws of Galway and Maeve, when they chase each other on the bed. But we'll see. Nothing lasts forever.

But my other brilliant idea is to do this with my cupboard doors, for extra storage (they're those over-the-door shoe holders and I cut them to fit the doors):

I plan to spend a chunk of the summer writing my portfolios for my comp exams Up North, so I hope there'll be some trips. K2M got me a gift card to the Minnesota State Parks for Christmas. Can't wait!

But I will have to.