I Mean, What Doesn’t Explode After a Month in Texas…?

Texas, Texas, Texas…what’s not to love, right? Except a government that isn’t FOR the PEOPLE, power outages galore, and a dwindling water supply. Presumably residents of Texas adore those things since they stick around, or they simply prefer a flat, shrub-covered and rattlesnake-laced landscape that goes on forever. Who knows.

Both Joe and I wanted to look back on our Air Force roots, which meant a visit to Lackland AFB near San Antonio, followed by a stop at Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo.

First we camped about an hour outside of Houston, where we discovered the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center, and trotted our butts on over to see what exciting discoveries were to be made in the world of Texas Czechs. Joe is still of a mind that it’s a big secret that there were U.S. military Czech linguists back in the day, but I’m pretty sure groups like this https://www.facebook.com/groups/203010518274 let the feline out of that particular bag many shadowy moons ago.

He didn’t want me to say that I was a former Czech linguist, so I told them I had a “Czech background.” This is true! Of course, the kind ladies then offered help with my Czech genealogy studies, and I was forced to trot out noncommital excuses and head nods ascertaining that I would be thrilled to seek their advice—upon my next visit.

I’ve been re-learning Czech on Duolingo, and I could almost understand the paragraph painted on their wall (above) without even needing the translation! Not sure that I will ever turn this skill into anything that matters, but at my age studying Czech again brings me happiness. And dog knows we could all use a little of that, eh? In fact, maybe I’ll even translate a book or two of mine into Czech. The children’s books, duh.

I also arranged a lunch date in Houston with my friend and fellow author Sandra Biersdorfer—our first time meeting in person. We had a long, chatty meal at a local Mexican establishment, where I partook of some mighty fine enchiladas.

Sandra has two kitty books for kids—fellow cat fanatics—as well as other children’s titles that you can check out through our Crescent Renewal imprint.

If you’re a reader of my blog, you know by now that Joe’s heritage is Hungarian, and he’s really into foods his mom made as a child. (This list does NOT include pea soup or plum dumplings, in case you were wondering.)

One of the desserts he likes best is called kolach, but the kolaches in Czechland are unlike the Hungarian kind, so after a couple tries he was one disappointed puppy. I thought they were plenty tasty, myself—they’re like a jelly donut, only the filling sits on top of the pastry instead of being wrapped inside.

See these? These are the barracks we stayed in for basic training in the 1980s! Lordy, lordy. I don’t know how long they’ve been in use, but these monstrosities are still housing trainees today. In fact, we spoke with a couple women who gave us the scoopage on how it differs today from when we showed up at Lackland almost 40 years ago.

There are now NEW barracks, see below, so some squadrons get to live in these comparative palaces while others are stuck in the ancient buildings that were probably built in the 1940s. It’s become quite the “class separator,” as trainees who lodge in the new barracks gloat that they landed in DISNEYLAND, while those stuck in the old ones ended up in ALCATRAZ.

Whew, makes me glad they were all crappy when I was there. ‘Cause you know my bootie woulda without a doubt been an Alcatraz dweller.

The other big difference? Women and men are now in the same flights together! That definitely didn’t happen when I went to Air Force Basic Training, nosiree. I watched them marching along and I was downright baffled; surely they weren’t housing males and females in the same buildings?

The youngsters we met told us that the men and women still live separately, but they combine into mixed flights during the day for training. I think that’s pretty cool.

We Camped at Beautiful Lake Medina…Which Didn’t Exist

Come to Texas! You’ll love it here! Visit our lakes…oh. Never mind.

According to the interwebs, “It’s not just the wells drying up. Medina Lake is the lowest it’s been since 2015. For months, the lake has been sinking lower and lower because of drought and irrigation. The century-old reservoir — which straddles Medina and Bandera counties — was 6.5 percent full late last month, having dropped 33 feet in a year.” Yikes.

When Joe checked us into the campground, they told him, “Don’t feed the deer. They’re so tame they’ll walk right into your camper if you do.”

I didn’t see the problem.

“Sweet, I’m in!” I sez to Joe, who assures me he also doesn’t approve of deer in campers. I ignore him to the best of my ability, and 200 applecarts later not a single deer has been successfully lured into my camper for cuddles! I now suspect those campground workers were liars, because what deer wouldn’t be queueing around the block to cuddle with me? [It’s rhetorical, don’t answer that.]

Tootie Becomes Toothless

Tootie started choking on her food again, so I called the closest veterinarian to see if they’d give her a steroid shot. When I explained the situation, the vet (like the New York vet months earlier) said it sounded like stomatitis, and I needed to have all of Tootie’s teeth pulled. Apparently, in stomatitis, the cat becomes allergic not to the teeth themselves, but to the plaque (or other “stuff”) on the teeth, and painful sores erupt. She felt removing Tootie’s teeth would dramatically improve her health; although I felt terrible about it, the path we were taking was certainly not leading to wellness.

Lake Hills Veterinary Clinic shifted their schedule around to make time to do the surgery—a very kind act for someone who would never be a repeat client—and I am incredibly grateful.

Tootie made it through the surgery ok, and that night I learned that a semi-feral cat—on drugs and in a cone—and a small camper do not a heavenly hash make. Tootie already possesses an exaggerated startle reaction, which means she could be loving away on me, but then Joe needs to get up for something: “Omg! A monster! Run and hide! Hide and run!” she screams (inside her head) as she races for her hidey-hole and peers out. “Whew that was a close one.”

Combine that already heightened alert system with the aggravating factors of cone and drugs listed above and that night the camper morphed into a pinball machine, a streaking blur bouncing off the walls, dinner trays, kitchen cabinets, bathroom door, and shoe rack. Repeat until exhaustion kicks in and you fall asleep on Mom’s lap for five minutes before gathering enough energy to start it all over again.

450 Acres is Pretty Good, Right?

I love going to animal “places,” but I get pre-stressed worrying if I’ll see animals in bad conditions or not living as they’d live in the wild. This safari, called the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, sported 450 acres and most of the animals lived on HUGE swaths of land, which I loved. It was a cold day in the middle of the week, so it wasn’t crowded and we were able to take our time going through and trying (and largely failing) to identify the different critters. I wasn’t as fond of the giraffe paddocks, and the smaller animals by the center were in cages, too, but overall I was pretty pleased by the care they were receiving and their living conditions.

Joe Wasn’t Happy to Spend a Second Birthday in San Angelo

Both Joe and I were also stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, TX for training (he went twice) and this would mark the second birthday he spent there. He wasn’t thrilled about it, but since he made the reservations, I kindly pointed out that maybe he should take that up with himself?

We found a local state park to hike in, and chose the Roadrunner Trail because, oooh, that’s probably pretty special, no? No! It was called the Roadrunner Trail because it ran beside the park road. Ha! Those sneaky bastages.

(On a side note, I’m pretty sure I saw a roadrunner at our campground, but didn’t get a pic. We also spotted a wild boar behind a camper, but we were driving so no proof of life for him either, dammit.)

And Then…We Exploded. Or Imploded. Figuratively, of Course.

This may come as a shock to you. If so, brace yourself: We fought.

We don’t fight that often. I’m not talking bickering, because that happens too.

But when we fight? We’re like two toddlers drunk on apple juice that—unbeknownst to Mom—went slightly rancid in the fridge.

And then somewhere, in the middle of all that poop throwing (again, figuratively)…we decide we should get a divorce.

Because that’s how we fight. “No, you’re a doodoo head. I’m leaving. I hope I never see you again.” That sort of thing. Oh, here’s some footage now:

Note that I start out as the girl…but then I turn into The Jerk. It’s a talent.

Then I Got Kicked Off Camper Island

When we fought at home, we’d “get divorced” but just go our separate ways for a few days. Eventually we’d say “Eh, we’ll get divorced next time. That seems like a lot of work.”

Unfortunately, for us that method doesn’t really work on the road. Um, because you’re stuck together. Very, very, very close together!

So, I’ve decided to return to Pennsylvania to help with my mother while I take stock of my life.

Will We Get Back Together Again?

I don’t know. I’m still considering it a break.

Joe is back out on the road (in Arizona I think?) working through his grief in the way of his people (i.e men): in other words, he’s carrying on as if nothing ever happened.

“Why’s it so peaceful now? Didn’t there used to be someone here yammering at me all day long? Ah, well. It’s better this way.”

And I’ve been mourning in the way of my people (whiny little beeyotches the world over): Drowning my sorrows for three weeks in a long-term hotel with my only friend, Tootie, where we cuddle, cry, drink, and—most importantly—wallow. All. Damn. Day. Long.

This is totally me! Stay tuned…

4 Kingdoms (er, States), 2 Kings, 1.5 Kids, and 1 Kut Later…

How did I get so far behind? Slackin’ around, I tell ya‘. I just gotta catch up…I can’t remember what I did yesterday, let alone a whole month or two ago. I have to jot notes to myself in my phone, then I either forget to read them or can’t make heads or tails of the wisdom I was imparting anyway.

I’m determined to bring you up to date in this post, though, regaling you with dazzling canapes of deliciousness from our stops in Memphis, TN, Little Rock, AR, Vicksburg, MS, and New Orleans, LA.

The 2 Kings of Memphis

When we hit the Memphis area we dipped our toes into our first military campground, at the nearby naval base. We typically stay about an hour outside of the city, so we can sightsee but also relax and find local places to hike and bike. Military base nightly rates aren’t bad, but most sites are first come/first served; if that makes you as nervous as it does us, then you’ll understand why we’ve only done it twice. Joe has been booking us 2-3 months out, and so having a week somewhere we can’t be positive of a spot (WITH full hookup, meaning water, sewer, and electric) is a matter of no small concern for camping weenies such as ourselves.

In fact, this potential scarcity of resources—without exception—triggers Joe’s competitive “we have to leave super early to get there before everyone else” analynity. [I’m sure that’s a word, check again…] He always—again, without exception—tells me it takes an extra hour to get to our next destination anyway, causing me to nod along sagely and subtract an hour in my head using my genius-level math skills.

Just imagine how much worse it gets when we haven’t clutched a guaranteed spot within our tiny but sharpened claws! Oh, the horror…we have to wake up even before light in some cases. It’s unthinkable, and yet here we are.

Where were we?

Anyhoo, if one has any sense of decency—eh-hem, I mean an affinity for national issues and human rights—your first stop in Memphis would likely be to pay homage to Martin Luther King, Jr., and the movement for equality he furthered at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. Cost is $18, or $16 for folks 55+, or $13 for veterans, which may or may not apply to any of you fogies.

If you are White and, like me, thought you had an understanding of what Black people endured throughout American history—from slavery through poverty, murders, abuse, and racism disguised in all its laughable rhetoric—you will probably still be surprised, horrified, and saddened by what you learn here. We were. I was struck by the comparison of the clean yet humble motel rooms where King and his entourage were staying with the seediness of the bathroom across the street where the murderer lay in wait. That seediness is par for the course with Whites who still cling to notions that they are somehow superior to other humans.

I was also unprepared for the visual impact of the bus that white supremacists and the KKK burned during the Freedom Rides. The imagery of this wanton destruction wrought by those in positions of power will stay with me always.

I’m not sayin’ you’ll have fun here. But I reckon learning about the horrors humans have imposed on others they deem as “below them” is a necessary and life-changing evolutionary experience. I know it served to open my eyes even further. Is this who Americans want to be? Again? Still? I know I don’t…and I know I’m not alone.

And then, on a Happier Note, We Paid a Visit to Elvis, known as the King of Rock and Roll [for the Youth Amongst Us, who are Probably like “Who?”]

Ah, Graceland, Home to Elvis and thereby daily throngs of his visiting admirers. Are you old enough to remember where you were on August 16, 1977 when he died? It was a pretty big deal for us, as my mother counted herself among his fans. I was 13 at the time, and I remember listening to his records in our PA farmhouse and having a sad with my mom and my brothers.

I’d been to Graceland before, but it was a long, bygone era—probably at least 25 years ago, with my very own little mother (she was only 4’11”.)

But it was nothing like it is today! Holy Granola. Now it’s an entire complex, and in addition to the house tour, features other add-ons like the car museum, a peek into his two airplanes, and an exhibit highlighting his time in the military. I definitely wouldn’t miss it if you’ve never been, although fair warning, it’s pricey these days. I wouldn’t go again anytime soon, unless we found ourselves in a zombie apocalypse situation and needed a visually stunning place to panic until our brains get munched by a passing horde.

I can see the movie footage now [we’re young and hawt, of course]: we race through Elvis’ bedroom, duck behind his pink cadillac, and then fruitlessly attempt to start his plane as a swarm of snuffling stiffs hangs from its wings.

Will we succeed in escaping and saving the planet from the scourge? You betcha, but only in the movie, because we’re played by young and hawt actors. In real life, Joe gets away and finds a splendid hiding spot and a nice new wife who cooks for him, while I freeze up like a rabbit, becoming the first tasty snack or a zombie myself.

In Little Rock we Hang with 1 (and a Half) Kids

Let’s pretend the zombies decided our brains were not to their taste [rudely calling us pezzaunts], then dumped us outside our camper. At this point, our wisest course of action would be to mosey our way over to see my son, Rayne, in Little Rock furabit. He’s young, and let’s face it, tougher than us anyway, so he’d probably do better in a zombie apocalypse.

He’s there for four months in training for his Air Force Reserve unit, and I was looking forward to our time together. Long gone are the days of him confidently declaring his plan to pull a camper into my yard so he could live by Mom forever. Ironically, now it’s me pulling a camper up to his neighborhood pleading for some mother/son time. Didn’t see that comin’.

Now that he’s married, though, I’ve been wonderin’ if I gained a child, lost a child, or is it somewhere in between? No matter. I’m calling it a gain of half a kid, and Kristin’s mom can have half of my kid, too…As long as it’s the bottom half. [Ah, I told myself not to make the fart joke, but just couldn’t resist.]

Our household may or may not have run on fart jokes during Rayne’s youth. Who knew we were both still eight-year-old boys at heart?

Although Rayne and Kristin got married at the courthouse before he left for tech school, their “real” wedding is this coming September on the beach, so they’re knee deep in those planning things folks do for such auspicious occasions. That sounds like work, doesn’t it? God lov’em.

I’m pretty sure I get to just show up at the wedding and have fun, which I’m pretending I’ve earned in this short phase between changing diapers and wearing diapers. Amiraight?

Rayne, Joe and I took a drive to Hot Springs, AR, where we checked out the local history and hiked in the National Forest. Hot Springs is “known for naturally heated springs, many of them in Hot Springs National Park. Bathhouse Row has eight bathhouses from the 19th and 20th centuries.”

I was pleasantly surprised because I love big old beautiful buildings, and these spas looked so well-cared for and unique, even the ones that are no longer open to the public. There are only a couple of spas doing business in the town anymore, though, so advance bookings are encouraged. Rayne and I pondered checking out one of the spas, but there were no appointments available for men, so we bagged it.

An Early Thanksgiving Celebration Ends in Third Emergency Room Trip

We just can’t stay out of the emergency room! I’m been twice for unmentionables which I was indeed uncouth enough to mention, and then came our Thanksgiving dinner with Rayne. He wouldn’t be able to get back to PA for Thanksgiving, so we cooked at his apartment, had a nice meal together, and then Joe chopped a hunk out of his pinkie. [Sorry about the graphic image…you needed the whole experience, though, didn’t you?]

Attempts were made by the three non-medical people in the room to staunch the bleeding, but once we realized that wasn’t happening, Joe and I reluctantly packed up our laundry baskets [yes, we were doing laundry at Rayne’s, if you must know] and leftovers and scurried to the ER.

Just in case you wrongly thought ERs were fun, I’m here to disabuse you of the notion. This one was crowded with REALLY SICK PEOPLE, including one woman who was shivering nonstop in a wheelchair and another girl who refused to wear her mask but looked out of it, too. We were in a COVID PETRI DISH!

As soon as they did triage on Joe’s finger we left…they said they couldn’t stitch it anyway because of the missing chunk, so we found a clinic for him to go to the next morning for a proper bandaging, antibiotics, and a tetanus shot.

We also experienced our first line of storms boasting their very own tornado spawns in Little Rock. The sirens on the base kept going off, so we huddled in our camper under the thunder, lightning, and deluge of water and hoped we didn’t end up three counties over and in pieces. Whew….not a banner night.

Who Knew There was a Big Civil War Battlefield in Vicksburg? Not Us…

That’s probably not something to be bragging about, is it? To be fair, though, I’m old AF, and even though I always did well on tests, the info I learned fled my brain as soon as it was no longer needed. All that space was reserved for really important teenage stuff like the next party, the next boy, and the next outfit for the next boy and the next party.

This, though. This! What in the actual? The above graphic pulls a justification from Mississippi’s Declaration of Secession. “Utter subjugation awaits us if we stay in the union . . . So we must secede so that we may continue to subjugate Black people…and other SPECIES of property.” This was written by some sick, sick fucks with a straight face and some kind of righteous indignation that they were doing what Jesus would do? I can’t even.

It had grown dark, and Joe needed something from the truck. He opened the camper door, only to see what appeared to be Tootie sitting on the step. He whipped the door shut, looked about wildly, and said, “Where’s Tootie?”

“She’s right there in her bed,” I replied, jumping up and rushing the door. “Why, is there a cat outside?”

Yes, there was. This boy wanted in, was quite vocal about it, and really, who am I NOT to oblige the demands of my cat friends? But the second he stepped paw onto the welcome mat he realized he was in the wrong camper and hightailed it back out the door. I awkwardly knocked on neighbors’ campers asking if they’d lost him but no one fessed up. He eventually took himself off to the back row of the campground, and I didn’t see him again. I choose to believe he happily found his way home.

In Lousiana, Joe wanted to go on a boat tour of the bayou, which I was initially less than enthused about. I wanted to be young and drink hurricanes in New Orleans, dammit! But go I did, and we were the first tour all week to see a real live Alley-gator. Turns out it does get pretty cold even in New Orleans, and all the alleys were asleep in their little water-filled dens! Who knew. Luckily it was a sunny (yet cold) day, and this guy was lured out by the promise of a nice sunbathe to warm his scales or whatever it is he sports on his outer personage.

In New Orleans, we decided on a bus tour to get a feel for the city. It was led by a Black woman who was a former principal and fifth generation resident. She was not only smart and funny, but so knowledgeable about the history and the intermixing of peoples and races in the area that she kept us all hanging on her every word. Highly recommend.

And wouldn’t you know it…Joe finally booked us a resort campground, and it was too damn frigid to enjoy the amenities!

Joe took a pic of me and Tootie sleeping. Note who’s hoggin’ the pillow…

Merry Christmas to all my friends and readers who celebrate! I wish you all the best this holiday season.

Speaking of, there’s still a little time to order books as holiday gifts for the animal lover in the family. Check out my offerings at http://www.tamirathayne.com. I’m happy to autograph any sales direct from my site, too.

That and ten bucks will get you a fancy coffee at your local purveyor.

When a Cat Cafe Has to Clarify that it’s Not a Strip Joint

Oh, I guffawed when I read the sign.

And then I wondered, “Wait, is this a clever joke or has the Naughty Cat Cafe been previously mistaken for an establishment of the night?”

I’m here to report that I don’t know. You’re welcome.

As we entered our fifth month of life on the roads of RV land, we found ourselves spending a week in Fairplay, SC, followed by a week in Georgia but just across the river from Chattanooga, TN. As such we ended up in all three states throughout the two-week period.

I strive to include at least one animal saga in each blog post, because—say it with me— “I. Love. Animals.” You too? . . . We also know there exists a fine line between animal educational opportunities and activities that further animal abuse or neglect, so not every animal story I’ve run into out here has had the happy ending we all crave.

This time it does, though.

With the Naughty Cat Cafe there was zero doubt in my mind that the cats who land here experience safety, joy, love, and beauty while they await a forever home. Hence the smile plastered on my face for the 45 minutes I spent onsite.

Making friends with the cats at this cafe was a no guilt, no sadness, all joy kinda occasion!

I know many of you scoff amongst yourselves about my unsecret Pokemon Go habit, but I’ll have you know that I only discovered the Naughty Cat Cafe because it has a pokestop out front! So there. The game IS useful in everyday life after all. [Don’t say natty natty boo boo. Don’t say it, Tami.]

Along the curb out front, one finds her/himself immediately smacked with the truth of the matter by a blaring “30 Cats Inside” sign. I presume these words engender different reactions in humans of different types and temperaments, ranging from terror to indifference to ecstasy.

I, for one, am amongst the percentage of the populace who would run, don’t walk (ok, I walked), immediately into that building. “Sign me up for meeting each and every one of these 30 cats!” I announced in my head as I sidled shyly up to the counter.

“Derp,” I said.

“Why hello, have you been here before?” asked the nice fellow behind the counter.

“Derp. Cats?” I mustered, looking around suspiciously at the cat-free room. Had I been hornswaggled?

The kindly gentleman then explained that I needed to pay $15.00 to see the cats (what?) but since they would be closing in 45 minutes I could get a discount of half off. And a “free” soda. So there was that. I paid the man his $7.50—because never let it be said that I’m above paying to make some new cat friends—but I have an opinion about the practice.

The pristine and massive yet cozy cat room

I could be wrong, but I think it would be better for cat cafes to ask for donations instead of charging a fee to visit. Why? Because it takes away from the beauty of the experience. Seeing and loving and caring for companion animals like cats is a gift both to them and to ourselves. When we HAVE to pay for something we’d probably happily donate for, it adds a feeling of coercion or force—these are not positive emotions I want to associate with interacting with cats.

I imagine the cafe isn’t a nonprofit and so doesn’t want to be seen as raising money, which I get, but…if I lived there I’d rarely go, because I would HAVE to pay. Yet if it was donation-based (or even one beverage minimum)? I’d stop by often. So they’d probably get $100s a year from me vs. $15. JMO. Let me know what you think.

The storefront entry room where they sell food and drinks was separate from the cat rooms due to state regs, but after you get your snack and drink you’re welcome to take them back into the cat room with you.

“Tunnels” to the litter room

The place was Ah-Mazingly Delightful, I’m not gonna lie! The cats interacted with each other and the humans in the room, and their curiosity made them a joy to be around. Each area was super tidy (I don’t know how they do it…) with nary a whiff of cat litter or other odors present! Also, the cat entryways to the litter box room [above]? Ingenious.

I plopped myself down on the floor and played with one intrepid kitty after another. Cats find my pokemon gotcha cord especially fascinating, and I’m able to lure quite a few my way with said device. Indeed, if you’re in the area and a cat lover, definitely check out The Naughty Cat Cafe and share your experience with us.

Rhonda’s one of those women you want to envy because she’s just so damn efficient, not to mention personable, attractive, kind, and friendly. The woman gets Schize DONE. But you know if you allow yourself to envy her, you’re just being a beeyotch. It’s wiser to befriend her, bask in her aura, and then siphon a little of the magic off for yourself when she’s not looking. That’s what I do, anyway. Shhh…

Rhonda works for a children’s nonprofit, and in her “free time,” she gives the rest of her energy to the animals through her organization, Freedom Train Transport and Pit Stop. See what I mean? Disgusting. I’m tired just typing it. Looking to donate for end of year? Rhonda’s org is a great choice.

Yes, We Landed in Bigfoot Country

Our campground in South Carolina helpfully alerted us to a nearby Sasquatch Festival for that coming Saturday. Well, that might be a lark, eh?

And that’s how curiosity lured us into an occasion which proved nothing if not eye-opening. The two most important tips I learned from my trip to the Sasquatch Festival are:

1. Oh, people really believe this stuff? Confusion sets in, and then I finally realize…

2. Don’t go to the Sasquatch Festival. Well, unless you already have a Sasquatch at home, then the networking opportunities could indeed be invaluable. Also, I suspect you’d flourish there if you’re a follower of Q, or you believe that drumpf won the election, has committed no crimes, and is going after pedophiles. [Maybe to shake their hand?]

I had words with a guy at a trumper booth, and it dawned on me that—there’s a small chance—people who believe in Sasquatch are also um, prime targets for the grifts of a Psycopath-in-Chief.

The South Carolina campground left a lot to be desired. We were dumped in an area of mostly full time or seasonal renters, who tend to pile up a plethora of unsightly outside detritus. Junk. On the bright side, it was super quiet in that section because many of the renters weren’t around much, and we found ourselves sleeping peacefully until 11:00 a.m. our first morning there.

This was also the first campground to LOCK their bathrooms at night, after an apparent toilet paper theft spree. There’s always that one person who ruins it for everyone—forcing innocents to poop in the woods. I mean, most of us have bathrooms in our campers, but still…

Speaking of Doody

I know what you’re thinking. Oh, goddess, is she gonna tell us about her bowel movements again? No, because I’m doing better in that area, thank you very much. If you need more details, DM me. I’ll be standing by.

But, this may or may not be an actual conversation that occurred in our camper:

Me, realizing Joe bought the crappy small trash bags when we agreed we wouldn’t buy them anymore, grumble, grumble: “Joe, why’d you buy those lame trash bags again?”

Joe, replying from the bathroom: “Well, they were a lot cheaper!”

Me: “But we agreed we were gonna get the better ones next time.”

Joe, sounding frazzled: “I can’t poop when you’re yelling at me.”

Me, didn’t see that comin’: [Crack up, shut my trap, and concede the argument.] What else can I do?

And that, folks, is a premiere example of just how little breathing room there is in a camper.

Take a gander at my new bear shirt, above [my third, and I’ll keep collecting until I’m eaten by a bear for the ultimate in irony.]

We were at a campground with slim pickins’ for book trades, so I decided to read 127 Hours Between a Rock and a Hard Place, a true story about a hiker and his life-or-death experience. As soon as I showed the book to Joe he said, “Oh, is that the one where the guy [fill in the blank with what Joe blurted that spoiled the surprise.]”

I looked at him in shock. “Dude, I’m just NOW picking up this book, why’re you gotta ruin it for me like that?”

He feigned an innocent look. “Well, I figured you saw the movie.”

“No, no, I didn’t, which is why I thought I’d read the book. Now it’s completely RUINED!”

Then I read the book, and he was right about what happened, and it wasn’t ruined. It seems weird to say I “enjoyed the book” if said book is about a hardship endured, but the story was well-written and I just had to know what happened next. In fact, we watched the movie later and I definitely think the book is better. You?

We wandered a small town named Seneca, which featured a walkway with cat paintings and stories about Ram Cat Alley. The tale goes that in the early 1900s, shop owners began meeting the train every morning to pick up orders of meat and fish and wheel them back to their stores. The accompanying fragrances of the cargo attracted so many cats that someone said, “Why, you couldn’t ram one more cat into this alley.” And so it was christened.

We browsed Helena, Georgia, where we braved an alpine slide (I used the brakes like a weenie), switched sides on the “insert face here” sign (hubba hubba), and Joe ingested some disappointing German food.

I, on the other hand, savored my cinnamon-and-sugar-coated almonds, a sweet reminder of the Bayern Germany festivals we frequented in the late 1980s.

We agreed to yet another boat ride (is this 5 or 6?) on the Southern Belle in Chattanooga, and upon further reflection I might soon be all boated out. I mean, how many amazing lake houses that I don’t own do I need to see? Fine, maybe just a few more then.

We also rode the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, the top section of which is ostensibly the steepest in the world, according to our conductor. If I’m wrong, you’ll have to take it up with him.

The incline deposited us at the top of Lookout Mountain, and then we hiked a trail through the Point Park National Park before hopping on a later incline back down the mountain.

Last but not least we spent hours at Rock City, which surprised me in that it was unlike anything I’d experienced to date. I almost didn’t go because it seemed there’d be lots of high rocks to scramble over or heights to fear. It’s not like that. A one-mile walk carries visitors through caves and slender passageways, imaginative rock gardens and carvings, or visions in art and verse; in fact, there were only a few spots where the heights were too much for me. I was able to duck back as far as possible and scoot on by the scary part without dying.

I found Fairyland Caverns to be the most magical place, whereas I’d wrongly presumed it would only provide a “Wow Factor” for children. Nope! The artists painted scenes from fairytales into cave recesses, and by the second or third one I found my chin dropping at the level of detail that went into each piece.

See Rock City! [I wasn’t paid to say that, but it was painted on lots of barns in the area, and now it just comes out. Their advertising dollars at work.]

Happy Thanksgiving to All who Celebrate

We’ve just hit Texas (my blog’s a couple stops behind), and will be attempting to create a scaled-back version of Thanksgiving dinner for two in a kitchen made for one. I’m sure it will all be fine…fine…fine…

Have You Started Your Holiday Shopping Yet?

I offer signed copies of all the books you see to your right, and they make great gifts for the animal lovers in your family. Just visit my site at tamirathayne.com to browse or make your selections.

In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I Spy a Critter I’ve Never Seen in the Wild Before

Wait for it…

It’s a BABY Elk. Blowing a raspberry. Swoon.

OK, it was an ELK! Many Elkishes! I told you I can’t keep a secret…but it was tres exciting, I’m not gonna lie. So you might as well have a big ol’ pic right outta the gate.

According to interweb experts [meaning, not me]:

“The Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s largest animal, elk can weigh 700 pounds and reach 5 feet at the shoulder. Elk were hunted to extinction in the area by the mid-1800s, but a successful 2001 reintroduction project brought them back to the park. Now, the population numbers as many as 200 elk.”

Remember How I Told You Joe and I Tend to Bumble About?

It’s true, we do. We’re lucky to catch the sights we DO manage to grasp in our tiny clawed hands. Our normal plan of attack is as follows: we hit our next campground, fight about setting up camp, set up camp, forget we’re mad at each other, then grab some grub in a nearby town and scrounge the brochure racks for anything appealing.

I shudder to think how close we came to missing the Elkins.

They weren’t in the brochures!

Joe’s son Garrett saved us from ourselves. Garrett and a few friends were staying in a cabin about 40 miles away, and we said we’d drop by toward evening on Saturday. But Garrett texted his dad that they were going to get pictures of the ELK instead, and I was immediately on alert, one might even say intrigued.

Elk, said the young lad? I must know more, immediately…

Two days later you can bet your patootie we’d parked our butts in that truck by noon and were heading to Cataloochee to hike and await the arrival of the Elkin Kings—and Queens—at the golden hour of dusk.

And Lordy, were those gorgeous beings worth every smidgling of the wait? Damn straight. I’m thankful to dog that I broke out the big camera with the long lens for this little soiree.

We Learned Other Stuff, Too

I’ve been blown away since the beginning of our trip by all that America has to offer. We’ve mostly partaken of larger tourist attractions, due to the aforementioned bumbling, and I’m always thinking, “Wow, dude. Who knew all this stuff was here?” [Besides experts. And locals. They know.]

Even the traps we visited that weren’t my cup of latte proved to be new and different experiences, and each of these experiences serves to enrobe our characters in just a bit more cinnamon and sugar. I hope.

For example, the Great Smoky National Park spans parts of Tennessee and North Carolina, so we spent time in the park while camping in both states. We learned that this particular National Park is unusual in that it has kept many of the homes that existed when the government took over the land in the early 1900s. Most of these houses you could walk right up and into, the doors left hanging wide open.

As such, I’ve been left with burning questions about these houses ever since, so I’ll ask them here and if anyone knows the answer you can enlighten us all: 1. Does a ranger go around and close the doors at night? 2. If not, aren’t they worried about bears, wild boar, raccoons, etc. wandering in and deciding this is as good a place as any to take a little nap, build a little den? 3. Does anyone ensure the open homes are critter-free before people start sauntering through each day? These are perfectly valid and legitimate concerns, one must admit. I mean, I love a critter as much as the next insane animal fiend, but I prefer not to be surprised by one as I stroll around the corner of a 1903 living room.

There was even an old schoolhouse. I couldn’t help but feel myself amongst the ghosts as I tiptoed through these long-empty spaces. And I wonder: Was there once happiness under these rooftops? Was it all hardship and tragedy? Had there been kindness, love?

See? I never even heard of a Madtom, and now I know we’re not supposed to move rocks for their protection. And now you know, too. Ah, look at us learning…

Joe bought a new hitch, and he insisted it must be installed as the remnants of Hurricane Ian were making their way inland. Luckily, we survived both the hitch and the storm, but not without swearing, whining, and bouts of self-pity. Naturally.

Joe spent time with his sons Taylor and Garrett in Tennessee, and we met Taylor’s adorable new kitten, too.

Our campground, a KOA near Asheville, NC, sported two beautiful lakes, plus a messier one perfect for Howloween Scaries. The nearby town of Black Mountain was stroll-worthy, had a German restaurant for Joe, AND was the birthplace of Roberta Flack. The town hung informational placards discussing how the railroad came to Black Mountain, while outing the abuse of prisoners—often black men—who were used to complete the railroad. Points for honesty, at least.

By four months into our trip, we realized we missed eating at a kitchen table. We also found that we don’t use our outside kitchen the way we thought we would. I guess this is why so many people end up changing campers quickly—it’s difficult to know exactly what suits you best until you’re out there doing it on the daily.

We decided to look into trading, found exactly the layout we wanted, and excitedly began our search for a dealer who had one on the lot.

Then they told us we’d lose $20,000 on the trade-in value for our six-month-old camper. Yikerellas! We couldn’t take a loss that excessive up the proverbial tailpipe, so we bought ourselves bigger tray tables for $40 and resigned ourselves to our current digs for the foreseeable future.

No new hermit crab shell for us…

In Indiana I Tour the ER for the 2nd Time—for a Most Embarrassing Reason

No, it Wasn’t the Most Unseemly Reason Imaginable. But Still.

We’ve all heard horror stories from Emergency Room nurses and doctors about folks showing up with poor dead gerbils in places they never agreed to go, or bottles suctioned into orifices they have no business exploring. One assumes these aren’t just urban legends, but are in fact the world’s most awkward reasons to show up at a hospital.

I’ve contented myself with the rationalization that my purpose in going—or Joe dragging me there, as I made lame excuses why I should instead do it tomorrow or never—was just normal everyday mortifying, and not the “I killed a hamster” kind of embarrassing. In short, I had geysers erupting multiple times a day from a place that should be max producing a tootsie roll or two.

So. Incredibly. Awkward.

An art piece I created after Katrina

I picked up giardia (a wholly unpleasant experience) many years ago while volunteering in New Orleans after Katrina, and this was very much the same; I believed I had again acquired a nasty bug from that “Chitty Sitcheashun” I told you about at our second Maine campground.

Needless to say, I convinced myself it would go away on its own, but it proved more invincible than my 58-year-old immune system. Weeks later I was forced to admit I might have a problem (kinda like AA but for poopers), and sought help from the professionals.

I was given two antibiotics, one for giardia and one for c-diff, and they made me sick to my stomach . . . but I gamely forced them down multiple times per day, while the geyser continued uninterrupted. That all you got? Pffft…bring it, lady.

It’s one thing ‘fessing up to the pros about why you’re visiting the hospital, but quite another to know they’re gonna need a sample: that’s just something no one in their right mind is eager to do.

The second ER—which happened to be in Cincinnati—was so much nicer and more professional than the first in rural New York. I offered a sample immediately (because yeah, there were urges), and then profusely apologized to the nurse who had to come along behind me and gather the evidence. I had a sneaking suspicion she was seeking revenge when she jabbed a needle in my arm and squirted blood all over me instead of into the tube where it was probably supposed to go. Well played, nurse, well played.

I was tested for both giardia and c-diff, and treated again for giardia as it was the more likely culprit. Except both tests came out negative, so now what’s a girl to do? I’ve been downing probiotics and yogurt and eating healthier for weeks and I still, well, haven’t returned to my normal self. Any ideas? Let me know…kindly, please. No need to add insult to bowel injury.

The bottom (ew) line? Being sick on the road isn’t as much fun as you might think it would be.

On to Brighter Topics…Friends You’ve Never Met in Real Life

In the animal rescue world—and other social groups and chat rooms all over the internet—we become fast friends with folks but never meet them in person. Monica is one such friend for me, and since we weren’t far we arranged lunch at an Indian restaurant in Richmond, Indiana. She and I talked and ate, gabbed and had a dessert, and then yakked even longer at a local park. It felt like we’d always known one another.

I met Monica in a cool way. She was one of the first people to follow my somewhat dubious lead and chain herself to a doghouse in order to raise awareness for chained dogs. Even though she did it many miles away in Indiana while I was chained in Pennsylvania, it warmed the cocker spaniels of my heart that I wasn’t so alone after all. We’ve been buds ever since. Thank you, Monica!

I Also Met an Indiana Ghost Town

After my lunch with Monica, I drove to a town the internet told me was touristy in search of postcards. I now believe the internet was conspiring to kill me, because when I got to Metamora, it was COMPLETELY ABANDONED—with the exception of this creepy clown and his duck friends.

Joe is adamant about sending postcards to family and friends from each state, but it’s not so easy finding postcards these days unless you’re at a major tourist attraction.

We aren’t always in such places, because we wander around aimlessly trying to figure out what actual tourists DO in each state. Then we trust the internet’s advice and end up in places like Metamora, often to our detriment.

You wouldn’t catch me there at night, no sirree.

But I did learn about the extinction of the Passenger Pigeons, and surprise, it was indeed man who killed them off, to our infinite chagrin. This is why we can’t have nice things, America!

Then We Mosied Along to Kentucky, Land of the Million Caves

They call this cave bacon, but come on…

Do you ever wonder why you continue to tour caves, when they all look exactly the same? Yeah, me too.

In Kentucky we camped near Mammoth Caves, which is an actual world-famous tourist attraction, so we deserve a pat on the back for finding one after the Metamora debacle in Indiana. Go, us!

We first toured Diamond Caverns, as it was right outside our campground and it would have been rude to simply ignore them for shinier objects nearby.

The most interesting takeaway from our tour was that in the 1920s there were actual Cave Wars because the local competition was so great, and they even undertook such dastardly deeds as breaking one another’s stalactites and burning buildings! Harsh.

I also learned there are cave crayfish without eyes who live for 70 years (didn’t see that comin’), plus cave crickets who look like spiders and are pursued by cave beetles who want to consume their eggs.

I hate to eat my words so soon after saying all caves are the same, but Mammoth Cave was well-worth the price of admission. It’s called a “dead” cave because the water doesn’t get through much of the rock above and so it doesn’t have the usual stalactite/stalagmite stuff. We went on a guided tour with like fifty people, and I was shocked at the massive rooms and miles of tunnels that have been discovered and made available to tour.

I must read too many dystopian novels, though, because I was totally planning how I would live there when the zombie apocalypse hits. Oh, who am I kidding. I’m the first one dead, and we all know it. You’ll probably be second.

Anyone else a Twilight fan? These shots reminded me of the end of the second movie where the vampire is bringing a busload of tourists into the caverns below the city to become her masters’ next meal. Yikes!

The Best Thing About the Corvette Museum? The Cars that Fell into a Cave, of Course

Many of you are married or have been married, so you know that it comes with its share of compromises. Joe is a car buff, whereas I usually remember vehicles by color alone and am oblivious to makes or models. So although the Corvette Museum wouldn’t be my cuppa, I went along and was pleasantly surprised at how well-put-together it was. We took a guided tour, but I’m not sure you would need it, because you can learn more on your own; but you do you.

A couple of things I liked about the museum:

New Corvette owners can pick their cars up at the museum and get the royal treatment while tourists of the world watch and slaver.

No lie, this old guy pictured here—no teeth and a walker—was one of the new car owners on the day of our visit! I’d love to hear the story behind this.

Did he save his whole life for this moment?

When did he decide to buy one?

Will he drive it himself?

So. Many. Questions.

I also liked the amount of thought that went into their exhibit space; and, they had some famous VIPs’—like Roy Orbison—cars on display.

Do you remember reading about the museum cave-in some years back? The story is featured in the museum now, and it grabs the attention of even non car buffs such as myself.

From their site: “The National Corvette Museum made international news headlines on February 12, 2014 when a sinkhole collapsed in the Skydome of the Museum in the wee hours of the morning. Thankfully, no one was in the building when it happened, but security cameras were rolling to catch the incident on camera. Museum visitation skyrocketed that same year as people from around the world were drawn to witness for themselves the destruction Mother Nature had caused.”

There He Goes with the German Food Again! I Told Ya’

Wait…is it the internet cats plotting my demise? Sounds about right.

Michigan and Ohio Bring Beaches, Bears, and a Brief Visit to My Dying-or-Maybe-Not Mother

The end of summer found us leaving New York and making a mad dash for Ohio and the Hungarian Food Festival held in Parma, which coincidentally took place the VERY day we were slated to arrive. Who knew?

Joe, that’s who.

Did you ever think you were on a trip around the country for one reason—such as seeing the beauty offered by each of America’s states—and then slowly become suspicious there’s a whole ‘nother reason for the trip you didn’t know about? No?

Just me, then.

I’ve told you a few of my issues (don’t worry, there’s more to come, and you’ll be oh-so-intrigued!) but my husband isn’t packing a light carry-on himself. I’ve always known he had a bit of a passion for Hungarian and German food, and have planned his birthday celebrations around these restaurants in the past because they bring him joy (and I get wine).

[He’s 100% Hungarian in heritage, and we were stationed in Germany in our youth so he developed a fondness for the cuisine, by way of explanation.]

I’m now starting to suspect our camping spots and times are coordinating a little too closely with nearby events of this nature and/or Hungarian or German restaurants to visit. I will continue to investigate these suspicions and keep you informed.

All I know for SURE is I had to get up EARLY two days in a row to make it to Ohio in time for this Hungarian festival, and I am 100% sure that’s not what I wanted to do.

But I love him. Right? Probably. So I kept the whining to a low roar and begrudgingly crawled out of bed and into the truck.

It was pouring rain by the time we arrived at the festival, but poor weather deterred exactly zero local Hungarians from turning out, and lines were long for each of the food offerings. I amused myself by battling other pokemon players in the on-site gym, while Joe partook of all his favorites, plus packed up an extra helping for later.

Secretly it feels good not to be a huuuge dickus maximus about what he wants to do, but someone’s gotta save him from himself, you know? There’s a fine line between supporting his interests and turning into a walking crepe. I’m personally on guard against the latter…

My Mother Gets Covid

My mother in better times, doing a book signing at her local library

I’ve written about my mother on here before, but in case you didn’t know or remember, she has very late-stage dementia, and is now ten years into her diagnosis. By this point she is nonverbal and can only walk with help from the bedroom to the living room. Her husband Chuck has been determined to keep her at home, so he brings in help five days a week, plus gets other local assistance as he can.

When Mom doesn’t feel well, no one knows until she goes down because she can’t tell them. By the time she was hospitalized she’d already been heading downhill for days, and a test at the hospital confirmed pneumonia and COVID. When my brother went to see her, he was told she was probably not going to make it due to the level of health compromise she’d started with and where she stood at this point in time.

Joe and I rushed back to PA the next day, lucky that their house was only four hours away from our campground in Ohio. Tootie came too but we left the camper, figuring that Joe could go pick it up in a day or two if the worst should come to pass.

I was very torn in my feelings. I knew my mother would NEVER want to live this way, and my heart broke for both her and Chuck every time I visited. The truth is I lost my mother years ago, and the shell that was her body continued on without a permission she’d never given. She always told me she wanted to go to the heaven she believed in, so maybe COVID would finally end her long nightmare and bring her wish to her?

But the hospital put her on paxlovid, plus IV fluids and antibiotics, and damned if she didn’t make it through! By day five of her hospitalization her lungs were clearer and they said she could go home that Friday. Shortly after she arrived home her condition boomeranged, but Chuck decided to keep her at home and allow her to pass peacefully if it was her time. My brothers and I agreed.

Yet here we are—weeks later—and Mom is eating and drinking again, although still confined to a hospital bed in the living room. It seems her mind has been long ready to leave, but for whatever reason her body continues to cling to this place.

We arrived back at the campground in time for one day of sightseeing in the small town of Ashtabula along Lake Erie before it was time to move to Michigan.

I’d really been hoping to visit my animal rescue cohort A.C. Wulff while in Ohio, but alas it was not to be, so here’s a shoutout to A.C.’s blog with links to current and recent projects. Next time, my friend!

Beaches and Bears, Oh My

We’d hit Lake Erie in Ohio, and realized in Michigan we could step foot on the shores of THREE Great Lakes: Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior. Look at us go!

First we took a jaunt up north to Mackinaw City, where we met some bears AND locked eyes on Lake Superior and Lake Huron, all in the same day.

I had read Bear in the Back Seat and the author—a wildlife ranger—mentioned a place in Michigan where you can watch bears in natural habitats of large fenced and wooded areas without being at risk. Naturally I was intrigued about such a place, and determined to see it for myself one day. I was nervous, though, because if the bears weren’t happy and cared for, then I too would be in the know and miserable about it.

Since going there I’ve done some research, and I’m still thinking on how I feel about the place, which will probably engender a blog post all its own. For now I will relay two things I felt were positive, and two things that made me uncomfortable.

The bears looked healthy. It was end of season for them, and they were packing on pounds for hibernation. Their coats were shiny and most seemed content. The big males and the young females had woodland acreage to escape the prying eyes of humans when needed and where they could dig themselves a haven for their long winter’s nap.

But the owners of this place allowed and hawked pictures with cubs, which is just wrong and creepy and very ala Tiger King. The cubs seemed distressed, pacing in an enclosure with a cement floor and looking for a way out, and there was no way in hell I was participating in that kind of exploitation. Super lame.

Which in the end made me question the motivation of these folks. Is this place really here to help bears or are they using bears for their own ends?

More to come on this when I further collect my thoughts…the world is seldom as black and white as we wish or think it should be.

Except for Nazis. Those are always bad. Trust me. I’m lookin’ at you, trumpistas.

The campground—which was oddly called Bear Cave RV Campground and actually sported it’s only little cave under the camp store and office—left a lot to be desired, and provided no sewer line for most of the campsites. The only thing the place had going for it, IMO, was this beautiful turkey who called it home and roamed the grounds clucking and eating all day long. Yay, something I could feed! She was surprisingly not a fan of dried fruit but loved nuts.

And lastly, we came across this young man escorting a turtle across the road, AWWWW. He— the turtle, not his escort—was of the snapping variety, as fortune would have it. That poor man fared better than Joe and I when we sought to provide the same service to a snapping turtle: we tied up traffic for ten minutes for a dude who was much more interested in killing us than getting to the other side! We were embarrassed and soundly beaten into submission, a day that lives on in infamy…in our minds at least.

Until next week, I bid you adieu. Or, as the Czechs would say it (my duolingo practice is finally paying off), Na shledanou.

The New York Stork Brings My Kind of Babies…and More

That Thing I Both Dread and Look Forward To Has Come to Pass—I Met Cats

Yes, this early

I know that you know that I love critters. I try to be an equal opportunity critter admirer, but a loosely-guarded secret of mine is that cats are my fav. I can’t help it! As early as I can remember I was dragging cats around with me, apparently even preferring them to my Easter basket and, gasp, chocolate.

I love how soft their pelts can be, and I most adore snuggling up with them and burying my face in their oh-so-delicious fur. It’s my favorite form of therapy.

As such I’ve been both looking forward to meeting cats on the road and dreading it, because if they are in dire straits I know I will be forced to take action on their behalf. Which sounds like a lot of emotional pain.

Plus, if the cats are the “property” of another, the situation can and often does end badly, since these folks are seldom interested in help or opinions. Rescue peeps encounter situations like this daily. God love ya.

Nuggets. You’re welcome.

For some inexplicable reason, we found ourselves spending a month in New York state, including three weeks at a campground outside of Malone near the Canadian border.

Here, as fortune would have it, lived three striped brother cats.

These boys “belonged” to the owners of the campground.

They were not neutered.

And often hungry.

However—being cats—they made ends meet by wisely working the campground crowd for their fill of snacks and snuggles.

It didn’t take them long to identify their softest touch, me, who scrambled to serve them a heaping bowl of yum anytime they made their way to my doorstep.

The most gregarious of the three is this boy; I nicknamed him “Finally,” because I was FINALLY in some kitty-lovin’ heaven. Once he marked me as his primary food source I saw him every day, and was rewarded many times over with purrs and snuggles when his tank was topped off and he was feeling a bit nappy.

It wasn’t long before his shyer brother joined us (all stripes, no white), but I didn’t meet the third and final brother until we were readying for departure. By this point I was totally in love with Finally and Furrily, and worried about them getting enough to eat when I was gone. Did the owners expect them to hunt for their food? Would they provide more nourishment when the camping season was over? Would they get them the vet care they needed, neuter them? I didn’t know.

I prepped two big bowls of food that morning and fretted when the boys were no-shows. I tucked the offerings behind a tree so the cats could find them but they wouldn’t be so visible (and tossed!) by campground staff. Then I spotted the now-familiar stripes and white paws sitting down for a bite, and raced over to greet my baby. Finally! But wait…there was no white stripe on his nose! Here indeed was the elusive third brother, in coloring the middle ground between the other two boys. He ravenously gobbled down both bowls, then I quickly refilled them before I left in hopes that all three could enjoy one more meal on me.

Now I think of them often and wonder if they’re ok. As much as I enjoyed seeing their little faces and providing them sustenance, I’m probably better off NOT meeting any more campground cats. I’ll be plum overwhelmed with all the fretting.

I Love Me Some Rivers

We camped beside a lovely river in Malone, the sound of which provided a soothing background noise for sleepytime. I even bought a tube and bobbed on down the rapids, with Joe taking slow-mo video of me making a run over the tiny waterfall.

I had a blast! Until, that is…I discovered my new wedding band that Joe bought before the trip was missing from my left hand. Oh, god…I lost my wedding ring. In the river. From which odds of recovery were virtually nil.

Quick. Hide me from Joe! Oh, don’t bother: I have a blabbermouth, so I immediately fessed up. Needless to say, Joe was an unhappy camper and I’ve been in the naughty chair ever since. Way to spoil my own fun. Note to self, and you if you’re listening: Remove all rings and other jewelry before tubing rivers.

What’s Even WORSE than The Fridge Opening During Travel? Damn DampRid, That’s What.

DampRid starts working as soon as it’s exposed to air. The little round whatever-they-ares are full of vim and vigor, and before you know it they’ve sucked up all the moisture from the environment and the little plastic container is now full of liquid instead of pellets. Genius, you say to yourself. I need 100 more of these things. NO!

No you don’t.

Trust me, this is one of those lessons we learned the hard way. The real hard way, and so maybe my tale will inspire you to CHOOSE ANOTHER PATH. Duck those DampRid “geniuses.

You see, the top of the DampRid container is just latticework because the air needs to get IN, but if you somehow spill the ensuing liquid? Just throw the entire camper away and start fresh. It’s your best option. (Don’t believe me? Check out these poor frantic bastards trying to get the stuff OUT of their carpets, closets, and floors.)

The day started off so lovely. We patted ourselves on the back for ensuring the fridge door was locked, and I told Joe, “Wow, we didn’t even fight this morning getting on the road! We’re really getting the hang of this camping thing.”

Universe: “Not so fast, ya losers.”

When we reached Malone it was my job to get Tootie into the camper and set up with her food and water, open the pull-outs, and start putting the insides back together. Joe deals with the outside stuff like the septic, water, and electric. I immediately spotted the new DampRid container on its side beside the stove, but assumed it was no biggie. “You got this, Tami,” I sez to myself. “Just a teensy spill, you’ll have this wiped up in a jiff.”

But a half hour later when Joe finished his chores and had the temerity to step inside, he found me in a puddle of goo, tossing potatoes out the camper door, and crying that it’s everywhere and IT. WILL. NOT. GO. AWAY.

And it burns!

The stuff is just wrong. When you get a paper towel and try to wipe it up it just IGNORES YOU. Gives you the natty natty boo boo raspberry. And stays right where it is. I’ve never seen anything like it. We’re still finding it on the floor after EVERY move, and we DON’T KNOW WHERE IT’S COMING FROM.

Time to buy another camper.

Other Coolness from New York

We caught up and went to dinner with a couple we met when we were stationed in Germany more than 30 years ago; neither of us had seen them since. Unfortunately, we forgot to take a group photo as a memento of the auspicious occasion, so you’ll just have to take my word on this one. Shout out to Bob and Carmen for a wonderful reunion.

This pic is from Joe’s going away party in 1987, and yes, we’re well-aware we don’t look like this anymore, but thanks for pointing it out! The years have not been very very kind…

We visited Fort Ticonderoga, at a whopping price of $25 each for admission to the property. We thought that was steep, but it did include a tour of the fort, the museums, and a trip up Mt. Defiance as well. The tour guide—umm, how to put this kindly—babbled and rambled for at least 350 hours (or 20 minutes, but it was HOT outside), detailing each and every battle that took place there until my eyes glazed over, my brain short-circuited, and I fell from a parapet. Not really, but that might have been preferable.

Joe won BIG at the casino, a whopping $14, while I lost my whole $10—which sounds about right. We took a cruise of Lake George on the Mohican (lovely), went to a demolition derby (trumpery and covidy), and broke down and started paying Elon Musk $135 a month for Starlink. We don’t regret the decision, though, because internet out here has been anywhere from nonexistent to horrible. We were at our wits end, I tell ya! Now we can stream and do most anything we want online, and phew. Relief.

Our Search for the Eloosive Moosive in NH and Vermont

New Englanders, and those who come to partake of these illustrously-wooded states, are obsessed with the large land animal known as the Eloosive Moosive. Thus begins our search…

So Much “Fake Moos”

Just another “fake moos” sighting

Joe: I want to see a moose.

Me: Duh.

We’re in Mooseland. Of course we’ll see a moose. Or even multiple meeses.

I was confident, especially after the girl at the sub shop told us she’d seen TWO. In one YEAR!

Holy common AF. It goes without saying then that our task was to search for this mythical being; but, in order to lure him, her, or them (we’re equal opportunity meese viewers) out into the open, we agreed to meander about pretending to do other things. In their general vicinity.

After all, we reasoned, this way we’d be sure to spot them from the corner of our eye and react accordingly. Oooh….aaaaahhhh….picture, picture, picture.

To earn the favor of the moosegods, we even stayed along the Moose River in Vermont, doubling down with our pick of the Moose River Campground. Surely meese must abound here where they are immortalized in statue and signage, no?

We Searched LOW…

We went On Foot…And by Bike…

I even tricked a chipmunk into our fire ring and proceeded to torture him for answers. “Every admission gets you one more sunflower seed, bucko. Now…where are the GD meeses? Are you acquainted with any of these beings? Take me to your moose leader.”

But he just eyed me up and down dismissively, yanked the sunflower seed bag out of my hand, and escaped through the christmas tree cutout. Turns out chipmunks are sneaky bastages, too. And able to withstand a measurable amount of torture by seed. Respect.

We Even Searched High…

Joe made this drive alone. No way!

I mean HIGH as in UP IN THE AIR, folks. Get your minds out of the cannabis gutter. (I’ll meet you there later…only where it’s legal, of course, which it turns out is most of New England.)

In order to search for meeses up HIGH, however, I would be required to confront one of the teensy terrors I’ve been hiding from you; I mean, you’re probably suitably convinced of my bravery in all matters right now. Why mess with a good thing?

What? I already mentioned my abject abhorrence of heights in a previous blog? Well, then, my not-so-secret secret fear is out. Yes, I’m afraid of heights. Yes, my palms become dew-laden even watching mountain climbers in movies. No, it never gets better. I posit that in a former life I was a Native American woman trying to protect my child and we were both tossed over a cliff by evil palefaces. Or something of that nature…don’t be judgy about my past-life memories.

I’m usually ok if I can back off from the edge about 20 ft or so, and with that in mind I was forced to decline, in ever-so-ladylike fashion, Joe’s offer to ride shotgun with him on a drive up Mt. Washington. Um…no guardrails, you say? Not wide enough for two vehicles, you say? Right on the edge of a cliff, is that right?

Nope, no, not today, not tomorrow, not EVER. No.

NO! No.