MUST I Vaccinate?

You may ask, if I already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, you need to get vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19. That’s because experts do not know yet how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19.

Unvaccinated people visiting vaccinated people need to keep gatherings small, outdoors, physically distanced, and the unvaccinated people need to wear masks, according to the CDC. Also, remember to wash hands frequently.

Please be vaccinated to help yourself and the rest of the world. This virus will be around for years. Take care of yourself! Be good to yourself; get vaccinated!

Bicycling for Corn Tortillas!

Sometimes I get a thought in my head and just have to follow through on it. Today I wanted a second day not driving my car and to eat a Mexican meal that had corn tortillas. Easy! Bicycle to a Mexican cafe, order take-out, bicycle back. I found a place 12 miles away … a nice short ride, 24 miles, today!

I had a leisurely morning, talking with my neighbors about the campfires everyone had last night and how the smoke hung in the air. When there is no wind and so much smoke from many, many campfires, I had to be sure I was not in the middle of a fire! Others go in their campers to sleep and do not breathe the smoke, but tenters do smell it all. Another camper who walks past my site each day and always stops to talk did so again. I was glad to see her as I wanted to ask the question of whether she works on Mercy Ships at any time. She does medical work with Samaritan’s Purse, but not yet with Mercy Ships since that commitment is for longer periods of time. Someday she will, she said. Thank goodness we have people in the world who do that good work, while others of us donate to the causes!

I finally got on my bicycle ride, and thanks to Google maps providing a bicycle route including mostly bike lanes on the roads I had a plan. I tucked my phone in my front food sack so I could hear the directions and off I went! The last couple of miles before the Mexican restaurant was a ride through Little Italy. Tough not to rethink my plan for lunch. My mouth watering as I thought of pasta in tomato sauce and gelato! Nope, kept cycling!

Wow, lots of people on line waiting to get into the restaurant which spaced their seated customers. Fortunately I was able to roll my bicycle up to the reservation desk, order take-out, and then wait nearby … while we all wore masks we surely were not 6 feet apart. Chicken street tacos on corn tortillas and a horchata to drink were handed to me, but where to eat it? I heard music in the area so that was the direction I headed. A low concrete wall worked for a place to put the bicycle and for me to sit and eat. Delicious food and drink! A guy walked by and asked where I got my meal. In short time he was back eating his lunch with me. Nice conversation. He had just moved to San Diego from Atlanta, Georgia because his friend told him San Diego is a cool place. I agree if you can look past the traffic!

Google maps sent me back a less touristy route. I did ride a few extra miles on a bicycle path to see if any interesting birds were at Sweetwater River, but none. By the time I was back to the campsite after a 27 mile bicycle ride, popcorn and a beer did hit the spot! My neighbors left a couple of logs of firewood which I passed on to others who had just arrived. So many less campers at the campground now, thus less campfires tonight, therefore less smoke in the air, yeah!

A question I often get asked, especially when at campgrounds with BBQ grills, electrical outlets so people can plug in their Insta-pot and/or electric griddle, or an on-site cafe. They see my backpacker Jet Boil stove and wonder what I eat. In reality I am not a gourmet food person. I like coffee, green tea, rice noodles, tuna fish, soup, cottage cheese, chunk very sharp cheddar cheese, crackers, apples, blueberries, cold cereal, yogurt, quinoa, canned sardines, already popped popcorn, beer, rice pudding, and whatever else I can think of. I probably spend more time boiling water for my coffee and tea each day that anything else. Tonight I had instant mashed red-skinned potatoes, quinoa and sardines… a meal I would never eat at home, but so easy here, plus I have leftover potatoes and quinoa which can easily be a snack tomorrow, thanks to the plastic containers I carry for leftovers. I see food simply as fuel when I camp, not a fine dining experience. Plus if I can wash few plates and utensils then it is even better! I did bring some dehydrated breakfasts (3) and dinners (2) and have not used them at all. The other nice thing about tent camping when on the road, there are plenty of take-out places if I want a meal that way and can have leftovers.

Here are photos, one from each campground – the empty state park and the KOA with more tables and one of many trailers seen in the photo. The hinged kitchen shelf, I made for the back of my bed platform for the Honda Element, worked great as a clean surface on the picnic tables.

The pocket rocket to make coffee was helpful and I always made green tea each morning to drink later. The Goal Zero battery was charged as needed and then I charged my watch, phone, laptop and Ipad off it. The Jetboil was a new addition and I enjoyed having 2 cups of hot water within 2 minutes! There is an attachment I can use on the Jetboil when cooking with a regular pot. I love my 2 person tent, surprisingly less weight than an old one-person tent I once used. It has vestibules on both sides so I really can have a roomy feeling. Tenting is not for everyone and for me I know it will only be a few more years. Sleeping on the ground is not something I think my body will tolerate for more than the upcoming decade, but in time I will know when to seek out another option or at least a better mattress! In the meantime, life is good!

Happy Mother’s Day & the Flower Fields

Today is a day to celebrate mothers! Many of us celebrate the special day from a distance, but our appreciation and love for our mom is not diminished. My mom inspired and continues to encourage my travels around the world. I am thankful for her support and understanding of my need to travel. She too had once enjoyed meeting new people, seeing new places and discovering unknowns. I know it is not easy for my mom to travel now, yet it provides me one more reason to write this blog when I do travel. So Mom, I love you, thank you for everything, and Happy Mother’s Day! I hope you enjoy the photographs of the flowers I saw at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, California in this post.

Despite the gray day, the colorful flowers and many fields of flowers were on display for us all to enjoy. There is quite a bit of history about this place along with so many varieties of poinsettias, but what I found most interesting is that they plant ranunculus seeds. The light-weighted seeds take 4 – 5 weeks to germinate and 6 months to blossom!

There are many, many fields of flowers here. One was in the shape of the American flag planted with petunias. It reminded me of my Vestal, NYS Student Council members who planted hundreds of petunias as an American flag in the front of the junior high school for Flag Day. Overall, a fun learning project for the students. I had a real appreciation for the field/American flag made here at the Flower Field, 100 times larger than the student project!

May people visiting the fields kept physically distanced or otherwise wore a mask. There were other activities to do besides walking the field: tractor ride of the fields, pea maze, video programs, and I picked blueberries. The good-sized and sweet berries were enjoyed in my cold cereal the upcoming mornings!

Later in the day I arrived at the KOA I was to tent at the next nights. I have a three-season tent and backpacker gear for lighting, cooking, and sleeping. I found it fascinating to watch people lay down carpets in front of their campers, string lights around trees and any other post available, plug in electric griddles and instant pots or cook on the barbecue grill, and use air compressors to blow up double sized mattresses for their sleeping in their tent. Many RV’s had a booming sound system and/or a television which by nightfall were on in most places. People brought camp chairs, screens to show movies on, and coolers large enough to hold plenty of beer. In some ways it seemed like numerous parties were happening. 

Everyone I met was interesting. Everyone has a story. With my tent the only thing on my site and an occasional use of my backpacker stove, I was most often defined as a minimalist. People were fascinated to know how I survive and how I even got a bicycle into my car! Always fun conversations!

Flowers from today:

Thanks again Mom! Love you!

A Simple Tool …. Stumped Me For A Moment!

I know it is not rocket science, but when I prepare for a camping trip and decide on a menu I need the right stuff. Or the right kitchen equipment to be sure I can open cans, stir food in a pot and/or pack potholders. I have been known to singe potholders, melt spoons and other crazy happenings over the many, many years of cooking on a small stove. Sometimes that is what happens when camping! All part of the adventure!

I noticed as I was planning for a recent trip, I had cans of fruit with no flip-top for easy opening. Deciding not to take the home can opener, I went to the store … actually many stores …. not finding a simple can opener. They all seemed to have large cranks to turn and were simply bulky.

Home can opener

Finally I was shopping at my favorite neighborhood store, ACE Hardware, and found the smallest, simplest can opener I had ever seen. Just like putting your tent up, unrolling sleeping bags, and other prep before a camping trip, I decided I should be sure I know how to use this small can opener.

My new can opener … but how to use it!?!

First off, let me same I do not use any can opener on a regular basis. Then I looked at this one and thought how difficult could this one be? To be honest I was stumped for a few minutes. I tried different approaches and studied where it was to attach to the can. Finally! I got it! Moral of the story: know how all your equipment works before heading out on your campout. (I now look twice on can tops to see how each opens!)

I got the can of fruit open with the new can opener!

It’s Been A Year and I Am Ready To Go!

Not only has it been a year, but it has been one like no other! Why do I say this? 

Well, a year ago I began to physically distance myself from people, cover my nose and mouth with a bandana or neck gaiter, until I learned a facial mask would better, to protect me from the airborne contagious Covid-19 virus. How could I not be concerned given the fact any virus at other times in my life made me feel lousy for a couple of weeks and this virus is reported to be worse!

Wearing a mask when near people, especially when within 6 feet of a person did take some getting used to, just as doubling my masks now as recently recommended by the scientists. To me, an airborne contagion means no indoor space for periods of time, but outdoor activities are many. I have taken a break from my tennis and pickleball playing, despite them being outdoor activities, because I did not want the stress of interacting with people who may or may not think mask-wearing or physical distancing important. It has been easier and more enjoyable for me to do solo activities or be with individuals within my “bubble”.

During this past year, I read more books, listened to audiobooks, started to sketch birds, bought bird feeders for the backyard to begin learning about birds, which eventually fueled my interest in bird photography. Stimulus check money went to organizations, such as Feeding America, Shelter Box, and some to camera equipment. I found myself driving to birding locations, listening to an audiobook along the way, and hiking an area to observe and photograph birds as my way to be outdoors, active, and safe from the virus. The majority of bird watchers seemed to respect the importance of face masks and physical distancing too when a group may congregate at a birding hot spot.

Reading the news and watching it on television this past year has been distressing most times. Reports of police brutality, especially with the death of George Floyd, boiled into numerous protests. The increased number of coronavirus cases and deaths, along with disrespect for what scientists stated as what each of us could do to “flatten the curve” seemed to fall on deaf ears. This was distressing while many Americans also followed misinformation. Coronavirus cases increased and our businesses, schools and country’s economics faltered while nurses and doctors at hospitals were overwhelmed. UPS, USPS, FedEx and Amazon delivery trucks seemed to be everywhere everyday while essential workers, such as the drivers of those vehicles and other delivery services, and those who worked in grocery stores, nursing homes, and medical centers services available. The news each day became more depressing as milestones of deaths were reported and videos of people at large group celebrations with no masks worn seemed to indicate no concern for their fellow man. And when the country’s president at that time also disregarded what world and national health organizations reported and encouraged none of their guidelines to be followed, then my concern and worry only continued to grow. 

What I cannot understand even a year later is why people still do not understand the science. There is information available to learn about the virus and how it spreads, but instead they would rather do what they wish and complain about their business or job not being available to them or their children at home not getting the best education, despite attempts to do so with their teachers through virtual learning. If we looked to other countries to see how they have been more successful handling the situation and incorporated any of those best practices we could also have been in a better position. Yet I notice many people in the USA not caring.

So here we are a year later with many people hesitant to be vaccinated. Scientists have accomplished an amazing task in having 3 different vaccines available for use within a short period of time. The scientific method was followed at each institution and accelerated which does not mean corners had been cut, so I wish people understood their work. While I am within the process of receiving my vaccine doses, I continue to spend time outdoors discovering the parks and places to roam where few people do. But I have discovered many other people realize the outdoors for hiking, bicycling and camping provide great opportunities for them too. Let’s get ourselves healthy so we can get back on an airplane and travel the world beyond our “bubble”. I’m doing my part to reach that goal, can you? I am ready to move on and see the rest of the world! How about you? 

Conversion of Honda Element to Camper

I love my Honda Element! I also love putting my bicycle inside the car. I enjoy tent camping, but there are times I need to roll out of my sleeping bag and hit the road right away to see birds as they wake up and take-off in flight. So, I decided I needed a bed in the back of my Honda Element. This would allow me to sleep in my vehicle and in the early morning simply move myself to behind the steering wheel and drive to a birding spot. No packing up of a tent, etc.

With forty hours of my labor, about $150.00 of materials and help from my ACE Hardware neighborhood store employees, I accomplished building a bed and other touches while also leaving space for my bicycle! I saw many conversion kits more luxurious than what I needed or could afford, and I thought I have time to build this since we are still in our Covid-19 pandemic days/months/year? (I know many of you could build all this faster, but I learned so much while doing this!)

The most useful resource was at ethanmaurice.com He built a larger bed and cabinet in his Honda Element, more than what I needed, but he had some super suggestions.

Here is the back of my car totally empty.

Tools/materials I used for this project: 

hand saw, drill, leveler, tape measure, screwdriver, paint brush, box cutter, scissors, pencil, permanent marker, ratchet, measuring tape, safety glasses and yardstick. 

I used a step stool and/or my car’s tailgate when I needed to saw some wood. The ACE Hardware employee’s cut my lumber per my instructions so I did not need a radial saw or jigsaw. Huge help from those guys!

Materials I bought for this project:

4 x 8 foot x 1/2 inch plywood, 4 x 4 x 8 foot lumber, various screws, various hinges, nails, sandpaper, polyurethane coating, paint thinner, shims, wood filler, pipe insulation, mosquito netting.

I started with drawing my bed design details on a cardboard bicycle box I collected from a local bicycle shop. With box cutter, I cut out the shape and put the pieces in the car to see if all will fit as I wish. I then calculated the height of the bed and what number of legs I wanted.

I brought my cardboard cut-outs and leg lengths to ACE Hardware where I bought my lumber. Abraham, Danny and I drew the template onto the wood and Abraham sawed away! Two bed pieces and 6 legs. Eventually I did place the legs in slightly different positions from my initial plan, but all went well.

Here are photos of the bed looking in from the rear:

Securing the bicycle was an issue because it was sliding around when I drove. My usual bike mount was to large for this project so I created my own. Since taking the photo, I have built a more secure base.

My other idea was that the top third of the bed frame would flip, with hinges, over the back portion. When I use the car at other times I wanted to be able to put items right behind the driver’s seat. Photos here of the top third and then flipped over so I could store items right behind my seat other times when not needing the bed.

I need to say, I have a few wood-working skills, but have learned much in the past from my dad and my volunteer time building homes with Habitat for Humanity in New York, Arizona and Poland. The most important: always re-measure and check measurements before anyone cuts anything! I had to-do lists for everything. I had daily plans in my notebook. I learned the importance of pre-drilling holes for screws. I know now polyurethane needs at least 24 hours to gas-off because I was under its effects when driving the car the next day. Definitely should not have been in an enclosed car! Chunkier screws were good, but a bit to long … so I learned how to file down their tip. And for nails that were to long, ACE Hardware employee cut the nails to the length I needed! Safety glasses were always important even when sanding wood! Finally I discovered, some of my best thinking was at 10pm.

Final touches: a kitchen shelf off the bed platform and mosquito netting on back when nights are hot. With the shelf, I used removable hinges so I can take the folding kitchen shelf off. Hinges, wow! what a learning curve to get all to move or slide properly, but it is done! I slide my milk crate out to create a level tabletop. In that crate will be my stove and all utensils and pots, etc for cooking or organizing a meal.

I do not have a sun roof with this model Honda Element, so I needed to think of a way to get air into the car for hot nights and me sleeping on the bed. While there was no rush to get it done now, since it is currently the winter season, I decided to repurpose mosquito netting used on a child’s stroller. Using the netting and 4 toggles, here is what I created for the upper half of the tailgate area:

This has been quite a project! Now I am ready to figure out what containers and supplies to pack. My ensolite pad, thermarest and pillow will go on top of the bed platform. This will allow me to either use them when sleeping in the car or easily drag them into my tent when sleeping there. Everything else will be stored underneath. 

Cannot wait to get out on the road!

Note: my next Honda Element will have an electric engine, a back area floor surface that is not so slippery and a sun roof. I keep hoping the reason Honda has not continued making this vehicle is they are working on an electric version of this vehicle! Time will tell!

Virtual Wine Tasting # 4 of 4

Wine and cooking!?! Yes! Our most recent and truly different virtual wine tasting was led by individuals associated with Benovia Winery, located in Santa Rosa, California. David, an employee, and Austin, a chef, lead us through the making of wild mushroom risotto and the wine tasting. The package we bought included, 2 Benovia wines: a chardonnay and a pinot noir, plus all the fixings to cook risotto! Yes, they included the olive oil, truffle butter, dried wild mushrooms, grated pecorino romano cheese, a spice (seasoning) blend, and carnaroli rice. 

While David talked with us about the chardonnay we were tasting, Austin also had us heating our stock and sautéing the first ingredients for the risotto. At various points of the virtual activity we were looking into each others cooking pans to see how our risotto was coming along. Once the risotto was cooked, we also heard from David about the pinot noir we were enjoying with our meal. (Others were also cooking scallops or steak and having the risotto as a side dish, but for us it was our meal.)

Benovia Winery has held local catered events in Arizona, pre-pandemic. They were always an enjoyable time to taste wines and meet fellow wine club members. Hopefully those activities will return when we are back to a normal world. In the meantime, wine can be ordered on-line at benoviawinery.com

If you followed my four virtual wine tasting posts, it is very interesting how businesses have promoted their products and interactions with buyers through Zoom. Part of me hopes there will be continued activities such as these because it is not always possible to get to a winery. Time will tell.

Virtual Wine Tasting # 3 of 4

Here we go again with another virtual wine tasting, but with our friends and our own coordinated Zoom time! Claiborne & Churchill Winery, located in San Luis Obispo, California, had a different twist on the idea of virtual tastings and offered a “Blind Tasting Challenge”. We received 3 “mystery” bottles of white wines, or you could choose the red wine package, wrapped individually so we could not see the name of the wine. Five tasting note cards were provided. As we tasted each wine we could see if the notes helped us determine the type of wine.

The fun part was inviting friends from around the country to buy a white wine package and join us on a future zoom call we arranged when everyone was available. A bit of coordination was needed as we were across 3 different time zones. We sipped wine, talked about the aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel of each wine to the best of our ability, and solved answers to wine trivia questions so we were sure to talk about other things too. It was fun and at best 2 of 3 wines were determined correctly by a couple of people.

Maybe we will do the red wine mystery package next??

If you are visiting near San Luis Obispo or the oceanfront town of Pismo Beach, you are close to this Edna Valley winery or check out their website: claibornechurchill.com and enjoy their wines!

Virtual Wine Tasting # 2 of 4

Another fun virtual wine tasting was with Pedroncelli Winery which is located in Geyserville, California. I think this was the first winery where we became club members. We discovered this winery years ago while road bicycling in the area and have enjoyed dinner in their barrel-room in the past. Oh, when will we be back to pre-pandemic days!?

Pedroncelli’s virtual wine tasting package was an Italian feast! It included three different cheeses, see photo below, a box of crackers, Molinari salami, 5 bottles of wine and a bottle of vintage port. Sips of different wines while enjoying the cheese was fun. So was eating some salami, something I usually never eat. We were drinking and eating left-overs for a few weeks!

Even if we cannot visit Pedroncelli Winery, we know their wines are available at pedroncelli.com If you are in northern California, stop and check out their wines!

Virtual Wine Tasting # 1 of 4… All Fun!

Virtually everything is happening virtually! With many of us unable to travel to our favorite California wineries, those businesses are bringing wine tasting experiences to us via Zoom. In the next blog posts, I will share 3 more virtual wine tasting details as each of the 4 wineries have a different approach to their virtual tasting.

Today, let’s talk about Papapietro-Perry Winery, located in Healdsburg, California, as they have had the most variety with their virtual tastings. One was a wine and cheese package, another wine and chocolate, and the ultimate fun one was wine, cheese and chocolate! With each package we bought, the food item(s) and 3 bottles of wine were included for the price along with a link to connect via Zoom on the designated virtual tasting day and time.

Before each virtual wine tasting, information was provided on how to prepare the cheeses we received, and what temperatures and when the wines should be opened. Papapietro-Perry Winery is known for its pinot noir wines and they never disappoint! One cheese package from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, located in Point Reyes Station, California had a fantastic variety of three cheeses. With another Papapietro-Perry wine tasting, a different 3 cheeses came from Marin French Cheese Company, located in Petaluma, California. Whether eating fresh brie, cranberry goat cheese, camembert, toma truffle, or bay blue cheese, all were absolutely delicious to this cheese-lover! Check out the cheese companies and also Papapietro-Perry Winery!

At each tasting time, the Papapietro-Perry wine club manager spoke, along with a cheese spokesperson for their company explaining the different cheeses, and a husband and wife team who made the Volo chocolate products. As you can see in the photo, the three chocolates were varied flavors. This team makes their chocolate in Windsor, California.

Each of our tastings with this company have been fun, informative, and allowed us a relaxing time to drink wine and enjoy the products. Recent surprise was seeing one of the California cheeses we had at a tasting available at our Arizona store! Yeah!

Websites of the companies mentioned in this blog: pointreyescheese.com, marinfrenchcheese.com, volochololate.com, and Papapietro-Perry.com Check them out; you will enjoy all!