Blue Coyote Giveaway
Bats and Bones
Today is the last day for the giveaway on this site for one of four signed copies of The Blue Coyote. Check it out here:
Blue Coyote Giveaway
AND on August 4 and 5, Bats and Bones will be available free for Kindle on Amazon.
Bats and Bones
Time for debriefing. Our nine days of camping in Northern Iowa involved:
We will be packing up today and heading home after a very full and busy week. After hitting us Thursday night with almost everything she had, Mother Nature must have been feeling a touch regretful and has delivered two pleasant, cool days. Perhaps a smidgen windy, but I am not complaining, you understand.
In the last two days, I did a book-signing at the Hampton Library; we sampled the local brew pub and ran into old friends of my sisters; had an incredible supper Friday night of meat loaf cooked in cast iron, sweet corn, squash, salad, etc; Ken and Harriet judged BBQ in Mason City yesterday while we did lunch with Uncle Sam and Aunt Carol and family; saw the fabulously restored Park Inn Hotel; Harriet and I hiked around the lake (it was at least 25 miles, plus we had to swim part of it); and enjoyed another great meal.
My plan for breakfast this morning is to finish up every thing in the fridge: should be interesting. I am trying to produce a list of everything we forgot or need to replace. I am also working on a design for some kind of charger caddy, so that we can 1) find them, 2) use them without untangling them, and 3) know at a glance whether we have all of them. It ain't easy being pioneers in this day and age.
Apparently, someone on Mother Nature's administrative staff didn't like my positive comments and photos of Beed's Lake and the beautiful sunsets. Last night, while we were cooking steaks over the campfire, we kept one eye on the radar--at a huge red and yellow glob barreling down out of Minnesota into Northern Iowa.
We held the usual insightful conversations:
"Think it will rain?"
"I wonder if I should take the awning down."
"Looks like it's going to hit us."
"Naw. it's going to veer off to the East."
"I think I will take the awning down."
"Look, it's already lighter in the West."
"Please pass the sauteed mushrooms."
At that point, the glob looked over its shoulder, came to a screeching halt on its cartoon heels, and said to itself, "After all my threats, those silly people are eating outside,"
And it hit us.
We grabbed everything we could and raced into Ken and Harriet's camper to finish our meal while the wind and rain tried to chew us up and spit us out. We said "It won't rain this hard for long." and it lasted five hours. We watched as pickup with a trailer circled the campground through the driving rain, presumably deciding on a site but perhaps waiting for one of us to be carried to Oz so he could snatch our lawn chairs and BBQ grill. Since it was too crowded to gather around a table, we played "I went on a camping trip and took along--", you know, where you have to name something that starts with every letter of the alphabet. Not surprisingly, the women skunked the men.
When there appeared to be a small let up, we raced for our own campers, and buttoned in for the night, listened to the storm hit again with renewed fury.
So, I promise, no more nice comments.
Sometimes, visiting a new park is kind of like a blind date. After five days at George Wyth State Park with its great bike trail system, I was afraid my 'hometown' park, Beed's Lake, might disappoint my friends and relatives--a plain step sister, if you will.
But we arrived yesterday afternoon, went through the usual setup fol-de-rol, and after a lovely supper, went for a little walk to view the step dam built back in the Thirties. Beed's Lake suddenly became Cinderella, putting on a wonderful show. Combined with near perfect temperatures and breezes, the evening light really showcased the beauty of this park.
The step dam is mesmerizing to view because the varying protrusions of limestone make wonderful patterns. Squaw Creek, which leads into nearby Hampton, is a beautiful sheltered spot. We are anxious to hike the trails around here and see more.
For you campers out there, I should mention the large campground with lots of level, shaded sites, and a brand new showerhouse.
Nice job, Beed's Lake--you go, girl!
I guess it's no surprise that we have the expression "to clear the air," meaning to get rid of bad air or feelings, usually through some kind of blowup.
We had that blow up last night--literally--in the form of a pretty violent thunderstorm that hit the campground about 6:00 pm. You are a lot closer to nature in a tin box surrounded by other canvas and tin boxes. But it didn't last terribly long, and damage seems minimal. The result was some gorgeous cloud formations (see above) and, after more than a week of heat and humidity, wonderful cool air, a great night of sleeping, and today one of those crisp mornings where everything seems sharper and cleaner.
I went for an early walk, trying to, as Anne Lamott says in her book Bird by Bird, listen to my broccoli and figure out how Frannie is going to catch the villain in my third book. It is Lamott's expression for not letting logic and organized thinking get in the way of pure intuition. By the river, I sat on a picnic bench in an empty tent site and watched the sunrise make the tops of the trees across the river glow, with the communion disc of the almost-full moon suspended just above them. If I didn't look down at the bench or sideways at the firepit, I could imagine the early explorers or the Native Americans two hundred years ago in this area. Not a single sign of human habitation. The river was smooth as silk with a few wrinkles and dimples I suppose caused by storm debris. What a way to collect oneself.
I still don't know how Frannie is going to do it or what we are having for breakfast but my broccoli is working.
It never fails to amaze me what gems we have in Iowa parks.. It is saddening to see signs posted explaining the continuing cutbacks in maintenance because the Iowa Legislature, in their infinite wisdom, has not seen fit to restore funding to the parks in spite of a budget surplus. But the DNR does an amazing job with what they have.
George Wyth is a wonderful park north of Cedar Falls with excellent bike trails. You can do considerable riding within the park or continue into Cedar Falls or Waterloo. Most of the trails are very shaded, a blessing in the type of weather we've been having.
We also are delighted with our campsites--spacious and shaded most of the day. Showers and restrooms are well maintained. There is a playground that is swarming with kids most of the time. It has been warm enough that we have had two nights in a row without a campfire--a first in our camping history. But we enjoyed leftover BBQ, and yummy sides and spent a pleasant evening relaxing in the shade. Of course, for me, any time you don't have to try and hear or talk over stock car races, it's a plus.
Ken and Harriet were delivered Saturday morning to carry out their judging responsibilities for the 'BBQ-Loo and Blues' event in Lincoln Park in Waterloo. They appreciated working in the beautiful, old, and air-conditioned Elks Lodge instead of the usual tent or metal building used for judging in other contests, We joined them when they were done and listened to some blue music. We checked out the area shops and especially enjoyed Dapper Designs, where Harriet found a pair of swords that we considered sending to son Pat (long, LONG story) but settled for photos instead. Fun place.
As we are packing for a marathon (by our standards) camping trip, I just want to remind any wannabee Frannie fans that I am giving away four copies of THE BLUE COYOTE this month on this site, under 'Giveaways and Stuff.' No strings attached, or in camping jargon, 'No Hookups
When I was a fifth or sixth grader, I went to Arnold's Park on Lake Okoboji. They are still famous for their roller coaster, but back in the Fifties, there was also a wonderful fun house, with a huge wooden slide and a large wooden barrel. The barrel lay on its side and rotated, not very fast as I recall. If you walked at an angle against the rotation, it was possible to traverse the length standing up.
But if you went down, regaining your feet was almost impossible. You were tumbled this way and that, an old pair of overalls in a washing machine. By the time you emerged, you were battered, bruised, and soundly defeated. The barrel still exists but is no longer in use because of liability issues.
With the completion of my five hour stint in 95 degree heat at our church food stand at the county fair yesterday, I feel like I am out of the barrel, at least for awhile. This past month, the barrel of life threw at me: short but potentially dangerous hospital visits for three immediate family members, a pile of volunteer responsibilities, a garden-turned-jungle in the recent rains, several large repair expenses, and a school reunion--not my own.
Maybe I'll go try the slide--that's all downhill.
Now that the big celebration for the 175th anniversary of my adopted town, West Liberty, has come and gone, hopefully I can get back to the third book of Frannie Shoemaker's adventures, and planning the details of a trip into my own past.
I am very excited that on Friday, July 26, I will be doing a book signing at the Hampton (Iowa) Public Library. I can't even calculate how many hours I spent in that place growing up. Now that I think about it, it was probably the only place in my young life where I had total freedom of choice. There was a kindly librarian--I regret that I do no remember her name--who at one point suggested trying some different writers; my friends and I were embroiled in the sugary single-plot Grace Livingston Hill books, but it was only a suggestion. I have told my grandchildren that I was often admonished by my parents to "get your nose out of that book!". They, of course, find that amusing, since their parents would like them to get their noses out of a video game and into a book.
And judging from pictures on the website, the Hampton Library has been redecorated inside with brighter colors. That's great, but I also remember with fondness the dark, neutral interior that was very reliable and comforting.
The best part, though, was the curved back wall--I think a fairly common feature of the old Carnegie buildings--because this was where the stacks were. There was something rather magical about the shelves of books fanning out from the circulation desk.
Another difference that just occurred to me: in those days, most book covers were essentially the same and there were no dust covers on the ones in the library. So there was more mystery involved in choosing your next read. The cover might be red, black, gray or brown with black or gold printing of the title and author, but no other clues to the interior.
There is an added bonus on this trip. We will be camping at nearby beautiful Beed's Lake State Park, another childhood haunt. Speaking of haunting, I wonder if we will see the Lady of the Lake walking at night with her lantern, looking for her lost children...
Some random thoughts about writing, camping, and eating.