Women Can Stand To Pee!

Here’s an update on the world of (PUD) “personal urination devices” or (STP) “stand to pee” devices for women. You probably do not recall my March 15, 2021 “Pee & Poop” blog post when I did test a few products. Click on my post’s title link above to refresh your memory, if you wish. 

Recently I realized I was still squatting behind cacti, shrubbery or a car door more often than using any of the pee devices, until I discovered and tried the “pStyle”! This plastic device works for me much better than the softer flexible devices. Who would have thought!?! I was comfortable squatting, but it did require pulling my shorts/pants down. The “pStyle” device can be used while fully clothed. Simply unzip a front zipper or move clothing to position the device as needed and it is time to pee!

Directions for the device will state you can use the rounded back edge and wipe away drips, thus no toilet paper needed. When done, shake any drips from the device, wipe it with wet ones or soap and water and/or toss in your bag to wash later. Know it is dishwasher safe if you are inclined to clean it in that manner. This device does not fold up small like other devices which could be a concern for you, but since I like the ease in using this one that is a minor factor. Just store it someplace and you are set. You can buy a carry-bag for your pStyle, sold separately, or make your own.

When you are out on the hiking trail being sure to hydrate, no worries! Driving down the road and wondering where is the next restroom, no worries! The “pStyle” device will be a game changer for you to stand up and pee on your timeline!

What a Trip!

As I look back on my 15 month wait to visit my mom and friend in New York State, the craziness of the Covid-19 virus, and the lack of uniformity in all of us being a community of mask-wearers and vaccinated, my decision to drive across the USA was a good one! The USA is many, many miles in geographic size and one with fascinating people along the way! We don’t all agree on everything, but in public places where rules dictated certain behaviors, the rules were followed with little to no angst. We all had been itching for some freedom in our travel and those of us on the ground seemed to be tolerant of one another and the rules. In talking with people, they mentioned driving and camping was their choice rather than flying and as a result campsites were packed. I was glad I made my reservations once I decided to travel.

The last two days, 44 & 45, of this trip I traveled just shy of 1,000 miles, from north of Fort Collins, Colorado to east of Santa Fe, New Mexico to Tucson, Arizona, to arrive home making my 45 days of total road mileage about 7893 miles. I was 70 miles away from the campsite on my last day when the yellow wrench on my car’s dashboard came on indicating 15% and the need in time to get the car serviced for oil, etc. Perfect timing as I was on my way home…. just another 410 miles to go! When I saw a train go by and especially Amtrak, I thought how in Europe I often traveled by train, yet in this country it never entered my mind. I am hoping with latest emphasis on bicycling and options to hop on Amtrak, I can put together a new sort of adventure of bicycling and train rides some day.

I am grateful for the opportunity to visit with everyone I did, to see new birds for my life list, to enjoy conversations with fellow travelers and to see our beautiful country. Do we need to improve in various areas in this country, yes! Could we all consider working to solve problems with actual solutions rather than complaining and doing nothing, yes! I believe we can be more productive for our businesses to grow, our environment to be healthy, our educational systems to nurture our young people, our medical care to be top-notch and available to all, and to work to build bridges rather than tear each other down … oh and by the way, there are some bridges needing repair!

Thank you to all who helped me through this adventure. I am grateful for your support and love. When will I be back on the road? Good question. Till then, be your best healthy self and kind to others. Namaste … meaning I support the spirit within you!

My final morning on the road. I lay in my bed in my car thinking about the past 44 days and my ride home to start in an hour. What a trip!

Ready to Leave Colorado!?!

Finally weather I imagined for Colorado, a nice cool morning breeze, yet short-lived as daytime temperatures will quickly climb! I fell back on my sleeping bag in my tent and thought how fortunate I have been to visit my mom and friend, plus others, and to enjoy traveling across the beautiful country I call home. The pandemic did and continues to be of major concern; however, my only wish now is to be home in two days, hug my partner, eat a salad and home-cooked meal, have a glass of wine and sleep in my own bed!

The campsite I was at these last few days has been the best; Fort Collins Lakeside Resort KOA. It is more expensive than other KOA’s with all the amenities; if you have children this is the KOA for you. I loved it, especially because the few tent sites here are all with a lakeside view! They have family restrooms each with toilet, sink and shower behind one door … very convenient.

I was not leaving early this morning to bike ride or birdwatch so I had time to talk with a young woman who is moving from Omaha, NE to Oregon. She hopes to find a teaching job some place in that state. I am sure she will. She told me of a project she is doing. She gutted a tent trailer so she can build a teardrop trailer. Interesting! I have memories of a tent trailer my family used when we traveled from New York State to the Canadian provinces north of the state. That style trailer is nice until the rain leaves them sopping wet and you’re hoping for hot days to dry it out.

Another couple are camping from Arkansas to Colorado to Washington State to see family. This is the first time they are camping and this morning they were muttering about taking time to look at motorhomes. They have been camping each night at a different location and that is tough. To assemble a tent and break all down the next morning does get tiresome. I have been fortunate to be in a place for a few nights every so often and it helps!

I checked out various places today:

Watson Lake: I bike rode here the other day, but on this visit I spent more time walking a good portion of the perimeter of the lake and discovered a trail along the Cache la Poudre River. I saw some birds, enjoyed this beautiful location, and had a nice conversation with locals who gave me the best recommendation for dinner tonight! Birds and scenes of Watson Lake:

Next stop was where I had dropped the pin on my Google map. There are so many places to see that I thought this was one way to narrow them down. So by chance, I visited Bingham Hill Park. A tiny park with plenty of history, overlooking a beautiful valley appropriately named Pleasant Valley. Off in the distance beyond Bellvue I could just see Watson Lake!

Next stop: Horsetooth Reservoir. The reservoir is huge with people in their boats enjoying all the water! I truly do believe I have been here before, from a bicycling trip I had done years ago! The terrain seems so familiar. This was the perfect place for me to cook lunch: my black bean, cheese and tomato tacos as I overlooked the reservoir. I also realized if the dam for this reservoir ever was breached it would flood Pleasant Valley. On the other side of the road one overlooks Colorado State University – the Foothills Campus.

Last stop: Fossil Creek City Park, also known as Poudre reservoir #17. There is no doubt the city of Fort Collins does much work on land restoration and flood control. I walked the area, saw some birds and a new bird for my life list: western grebe. My last day of leisurely travel before I drive for 2 days to get home and I see a new bird, wow!

My treat, a hotel stay and dinner out for tonight! The young couple at Watson Lake recommended “Little”. I thought they would be open when I arrived yet I was 45 minutes early plus had no reservation. The staff were great. They let me sit at an outside table where I could buy a beer, write in my journal and catch up on emails. I ordered medium rare lamb t-bone with salad and potatoes, and a French rosé. For dessert, cherries with meringue … definitely something I never had before, delicious! This restaurant opened 3 months before the pandemic, do share tips with all their staff, and are doing well. Be sure to book a reservation! I asked where they get their mussels, listed on the menu. Apparently a woman in Maine only sends them to this restaurant and French Laundry in CA.

My travel is soon to end. I truly enjoyed the beautiful Fort Collins area. Of course I had more than enough time to travel to all corners of the outlying areas of the city and neighboring towns. I probably spent less than 10 minutes in the historic downtown. Years ago I remember it being quaint; not the case now as tourists flood the downtown. (Another reason I liked “Little” as it was not in downtown.) 

I think the city planning is interesting. There are many natural areas and ponds with some only accessible by people who live around the area. This is nice for those people. Many other natural areas are open to the public. Since the 2013 flood when the Poudre and Big Thomson Rivers inundated many areas around Fort Collins and made it difficult for people to get to the city, projects have been put in place to hopefully manage large amounts of water. I also heard about people who built their home west of Horsetooth Reservoir only to discover there are mountain lions and other wildlife in the area! (Seriously, did they know where they were building!) They felt uncomfortable in that environment with a dog and young children so they moved. Thankfully wildlife is still here and in Rocky Mountain National Park! We need to protect their lands too.

My final post for this travel adventure is in 2 days! And to close with photos from my meal at “Little” in Fort Collins!

Flexibility When on the Road

During the pandemic many of us took advantage of zoom presentations on all kinds of topics. I heard wildlife photographers talk about the number of photos they take and needing time to actually look at the thousands of photos! It’s hard for me to imagine I would ever be looking at photos months later, but now I understand the challenge. During this trip I have had to find time to look through my, not thousands per day, many photos, identify birds new to me, enter checklists into eBird, write a blog post covering a day or two, and still find time to eat, shower, relax and sleep!  And I also wondered what happened at Wimbledon, the Tour de France, the Olympics and the rest of the world? I felt so disconnected from the world, but thanks to my partner, family and friends news of any importance did get to me. Thankfully too many programs are being recorded for me to watch when I return home.

So the morning of day 41 of this travel adventure, I decided to stay put and work on my blog so when I get home I have only a final trip post to write. It is also easier to get a wifi connection when everyone else is out and about, but they will be back streaming all kinds of things soon as they sit in their air-conditioned travel trailer or motorhome! Tenting does not allow one to get away from the heat and since the pandemic limits comfortably staying at a library or restaurant it has been a challenge compared to how it would have been if everything was open. When will we be out of this pandemic!?!

When I checked in at the campground at 1:00pm, I learned I could enter Rocky Mountain National Park with no reservation if I arrive after 3pm. So off I went! (Others had to reserve a 2 hour time block for arrival and the reservation had to be on a written paper if they wanted to arrive anytime between 6am and 3pm. Park rules are now regulating the number of people entering per 2 hour time blocks.) On my way to the park I stopped at Coyote Ridge Natural Area. The Fort Collins, Colorado area has many such areas as they try to get the land back to its natural state and enhance its value for wildlife. These photos are just a couple of many.

I have visited Rocky Mountain National Park a few times. Wow has the town of Estes Park grown in size! The beautiful historic Stanley Hotel is still a beautiful site as I can only imagine it really was when in 1909 it was first opened to city folk visiting the wilderness, and it is still quite impressive! Of course, now most people know Stephen King had spent a night here in the 1970’s and was inspired to write “The Shining”. Fortunately as history records, the hotel is restored and people can now book rooms, meals and spa treatments.

Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO

Here’s a photo of what was ahead of me:

Rocky Mountain National Park ahead!

I drove into the park and was limited on the amount of time I would spend since I wanted to be back to the campground before dark, plus the road through Thompson Canyon is with quite a few curves. But I found a couple of places to relax, read about the Woodpecker Army, the CCC group that helped build the roads and places in this park, and have my dinner. Although it was an hour’s drive to get here it was nice to be at a higher elevation with more coolness than the Fort Collins campground.

I’m a Magnet for Squirrels & Black Flies!

Day 38: Still camping in South Dakota. What a surprise! Around 3:30am we had some rain! A few hours earlier I opened my tent flaps to let the breeze in and now I was closing them! The morning heat was here so I started breakfast and hung my wet tent fly on my car. Then, I was doing battle with a squirrel! I saw this squirrel yesterday. It was obnoxious then, but I was only writing at my table. Today I was with yogurt, cereal, coffee and tea so probably a tempting scene for a squirrel wanting to steal something! After shooing it away with small stones and water and it returning each time, I took my can of OFF and sprayed it toward the squirrel. He did not come back!

An hour later I saw a woman trying to feed a squirrel, no doubt the same one I shooed away! She is crouched over with arm extended and some food in her hand. I couldn’t believe it! Don’t people know not to feed wild animals? Don’t they realize these animals will be pests for the next people who camp here? Fortunately a man, from another campsite, started to yell to the woman and tell her not to feed the squirrel.

Today’s drive was from North Sioux City, South Dakota to Donaphin, Nebraska This was to be a short 3.5 hour drive, basically to shorten  my drive the next day. It’s hot and humid. If it wasn’t for that Canadian wildfire smoke I would still be in Bemidji, MN … oh well!

In reality, the drive was about 45 minutes longer due to a car crash. Unfortunately the crash involved cars in both directions. I am not sure how it happened. The oncoming car had a crashed front end and windshield and the car going my direction was in the median upside down. Wow!

Tonight’s campsite I am crammed between the restrooms and the swimming pool. Actually the next tent site is close too. I did have a nice grassy area to setup my tent. I will be out of here early in the morning for a 6 hour drive to Fort Collins, CO. I should have a good night sleep, but my insect bites on my ankles are still hurting me. One advantage of this campground is the highway traffic is a mile away. Nice change of pace, may not need earplugs! (But I did.)

Day 39. I heard lots of commotion at the campground so I checked my Dark Sky app to see if they were early departures or breaking down their tents or driving trailers out for a reason. Yup, in 35 minutes rain will be in our area! I was out within 29 minutes and decided to eat granola bar and Granny Smith apple on the road. 

Driving from Donaphin, NE to Fort Collins, CO I discover I am in the middle of sandhill crane country! I had heard of Kearney, NE as one of the areas people descend upon when it is sandhill crane migration time. Someday I may be back!

The final 90 miles to Fort Collins, Co I drove on smaller roads rather than the interstate. I wanted to see the prairie lands, the communities being built outside of Fort Collins, the sheep farms, landfill and to simply have a change of pace in the driving.

When I stopped for gas near Fort Collins a woman recommended Estes Park as place to visit . When I spoke on the phone with my mom, she told me the plague is here. Apparently a child had died from it. She and I reminisced about the time my youngest sister was bit by a squirrel at the bottom of the gorge at Royal Gorge, CO in 1968, I think it was!?! Fortunately my sister did not need rabies shots. Good thing as we were in the first week or so of our 10 week family camping trip around the USA.

At NE campsite, to the left were restrooms and to the right the pool. But the grass was nice!

Some May Call Me Crazy!

My goal wherever I travel is to see as much as I can since I never  know when I will return! Birdwatching is a challenge since I cannot always be where they are when they are migrating for an easier time to bird watch, but they are here each day! With patience I will see them even as I move through 3 states in this one day: South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska!

Today’s temperature rose from a morning 65 to midday 93 degrees; feeling like 103 degrees. Before leaving the area the next day, I had three places to visit. I camped in North Sioux City, South Dakota, a couple of miles from Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve. I spent a few hours at the homestead and loved it. I walked more than a mile on their trails and stood behind 2 wildlife blinds to ultimately observe 21 different species of birds and 4 deer, yet no sign of the red-headed woodpecker, darn! This 1500 acre property includes the family’s homestead and other buildings. Many of the trails you can also bicycle ride with hybrid tires being the best for the trail. Plenty of history here. Stephen Searls Adams in 1872 purchased Civil War soldiers’ homesteading rights through the Homestead Act. It was 120 years later, 1984, when his granddaughters donated the 1500 acres to the state of South Dakota. They wanted this place to be “a place for inner renewal”. 

I watched three great blue herons for a period of time. I thought the crouch of one was to be intimidating or to attract a female, yet it seemed there a was way to protect ones territory. Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve is a place worth visiting. Here are photos from this place:

Next I drove across the Missouri River to Iowa. I visited Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center. What beautiful indoor exhibits and also a “Bird of Prey” outdoor exhibit with a barred owl and red-tailed hawk, each in their own area, both unfortunately permanently injured. The three miles of hiking trails wind through forest and prairie areas and connect with Stone State Park trails. I loved seeing the tree fort and rock climbing area for children. There are also nature programs for children with trained naturalists. I walked the Whitetail Ridge Trail and did observe birds. Photos from here:

Next stop was Dairy Queen! I needed to sit in an air-conditioned area and have a “Blizzard”. No amount of water was keeping me cool, yet I knew I must keep hydrated and why not cool my innards!?

After starting in South Dakota, then to Iowa, I was now visiting Crystal Cove Park in Nebraska. Not much was happening at this park …. temperatures were over 100 degrees so that was understandable. I did talk with a couple of people who found it necessary to get their run in!?!?! I also talked about traveling to the 3 different states in such close proximity to each for gasoline, medical appointments, etc and they all agreed it does get tricky at times. My 3 visits were all less than 7 miles from each other and in three different states. Interesting!

I was exhausted, but had a good day and then a wonderful shower, but the black flies attacked my feet! I have so many bites and they itch unbelievably! After Bite is not helping! Never had this experience before and not enjoying it! Insects may rule the world in the future; horrible thought right now!

You Can Fly in South Dakota!

I wanted to stay in Minnesota; I did not have the time I wanted to explore the area … plus, there are 10,000 lakes, no, actually 11,842 officially recognized by MN Department of Natural Resources … more if they count even the smaller bodies of water covering 2.5 acres. As I drove through Minnesota my neck craned to see if there were any birds … swans, great blue herons, ducks were obvious … was the red-headed woodpecker around? I will not know. Then the landscape changed as I went across about 40 miles of North Dakota corner and entered South Dakota. From that point to my destination was another 260 miles. What a mind-numbing drive today was! Fields of grain for miles and miles, an area with windmills, and very few towns of substantial size to break-up the monotony of today’s 450 mile drive. My concern was the speed we were all traveling. The speed limit was 80 mph which means many were traveling faster than that and when you see huge trucks barreling up right behind you it gets a bit crazy.

I started with a full tank of gas, filled up again before leaving MN and decided to get gas when in Sioux Falls, SD area … but drove right past the area! Yes, I need gas since I burned through plenty at 80mph! Definitely need it to get to my destination since stranded out on this highway would be no picnic. Decision, decision. Do I turn back ten miles or go forward and hope some small town ahead has a gas station? The yellow warning light had not lit yet, indicating gas needed soon, so I drove on. Twelve miles ahead I found a station and paid more per gallon; my own fault and did I say today was a mind-numbing drive? I meant it!

I arrived at my campsite at North Sioux City, South Dakota. To get here was an eight hour drive. The weather: no smoke, no rain … who could ask for more? It was a sunny 90 degrees. A strong wind was blowing so I put my stove on the tailgate of my car to boil up water for dinner with the car blocking some of the wind. My site is next to a teepee. I wonder if anyone is staying in it tonight. I would love to see the inside. Years ago when I worked at a Girl Scout camp in upstate NY we actually built a teepee. Quite the challenge! My dinner tonight was rice noodles, salmon and green peas. I am a fan of simple meals on the road. These campgrounds are truly interesting with our world of technology. I just received a text from campground staff letting me know I can order a pizza from them and they will deliver. They didn’t say ice cream was an option, so forget it!

Add whatever spice or salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Looking forward to Bemidji!

My plan was to stay in Bemidji, Minnesota for 6 nights and look for loons. Day 34 of my trip started with a Weather Channel report stating beautiful weather in Bemidji, so I was on my way!

My drive from Madison, Wisconsin to Bemidji, Minnesota was 7.5 hours and then while taking some breaks for snack, stretch and lunch it was about 9 hours. Interesting change in the scenery with Minnesota being more open whereas Wisconsin seemed to be more forested. Both states have agricultural land with corn and soybean, dairy farms and beef lots. Minnesota had ponds, rivers and lakes every turn I took. How do truck drivers survive the long hours? My body feels like it needs to unfold after a couple of hours. I can understand the need for their truck plazas for food, gasoline, showers, and whatever else they offer to cater to truckers. Their job is not easy … staying awake, in shape, hydrated and fed, and having a place to pull off the road to sleep.

About 2.5 hours away from reaching my camping destination I was surprised to see a gray sky, especially after listening the the weather report. One moment there were a couple of raindrops, so I thought maybe it is a local rain. An hour away from my destination, I pulled off the 2 lane road that had no shoulder so I could take a pee stop.

Finally saw a safe place to pull off the road and I immediately realized it was smoke creating the gray in the sky. I arrived in Bemidji and had to cancel my 4 nights of camping. There was no way I could breathe the smoke for 24 hours and for a few days … so I moved my 2 hotel nights to my arrival and the next night. I was lucky to get the last room at the hotel! Apparently the smoke is from Canadian wildfires … our earth is really burning up! Forest management seems to be the topic for today, along with water management as even Minneapolis, Minnesota has put water restrictions in place.

Day 35: A full day in Bemidji! I spent hours at Diamond Point Park and saw 16 different species of birds. I also walked one mile along Lake Bemidji near the state park, but no loon seen even though I waited to look for them between 4 – 6pm. Photos of some birds are below. 

It was less smoky today, but still not good for tenters. Staying at the hotel allowed me to breathe air-conditioned air and be away from the smoke. I contemplated extending my time, but additional hotel costs are not in my budget, so another plan needs to be considered. I will definitely return to Bemidji some day. This was another area for some bicycling and I definitely need to find a loon! People in both Wisconsin and Minnesota have been friendly and helpful. I look forward to returning to both states.

Pond, Prairie and Marsh Day in Wisconsin

Where to go, what to do … questions most often asked prior to visiting a new place. So when I was researching for this trip, I looked for places where birders might go. Goose Pond Sanctuary and surrounding area drew my attention. Despite this time of year not being the peak of any bird migration, birds are out all the time just making it more difficult to find them. But the other interesting thing in visiting Goose Pond is discovering the “Family Prairies”. These stewards of the land set aside acres to remain as prairie, so you will not see corn or soybeans planted and/or growing on these lands. The stewardship program has allowed the rest of us to walk the prairie.

I spent time at the ponds and walking trails conveniently mowed in or around some of the prairies. The wildflowers are beautiful too. At the ponds I saw cedar waxwings, swallows, red-winged blackbirds and a couple of mallard families. Below are photos of some birds and wildflowers, followed by time I spent at a marsh.

After driving the roads to the various “family Prairies” I spent the next hours at Schoenberg Marsh Waterfowl Production Area. From the parking lot you walk a paved trail to an observation deck. Along the way I saw some red-tailed hawks and American white pelicans.

After a short time on the observation deck I began talking with Jim. (We did eventually introduce ourselves to each other so I know his name.) We were talking about the farms and prairies when I discover he grew up on a farm just across the way from this marsh. Unfortunately he was in a farm accident and he moves around in his motorized wheel chair. He now lives more than a 1/2 hour away but often comes to this observation deck “to ponder”. We discussed how paved trails allow him accessibility to more outdoor places. We talked about many things … life, birds, muskrats, politics, kindness, wheelchairs … for a few hours while we watched the sky and trees for birds. The pelicans were around at water’s edge, cardinals and gray catbirds in the trees along with a chipmunk.

Before we each got into our vehicles, Jim gave me his phone number in case I had any questions about Wisconsin; very kind of him to do so. I am glad he did since I need to send him a photo of a bird we wondered about. It was an American kestrel!

Visiting Lake Kegonsa State Park, WI

Click, click … click, click, click … I recognize the sound and continue to hear it numerous times, so I look from my tent site to my neighbor’s site. He is priming a Coleman stove and unfortunately cannot get the burner lit. That can be the start to a bad day … one needs to have at least one hot cup of coffee! I yell over, “Need a match?” His head nods affirmatively and I walk over with matches and lighter. 

My neighbor is here with family and friends, scattered at various sites at this campground, for a memorial service. He told me this yesterday. The person died a year ago from Covid-19 and they are all here to have that memorial service.

While helping to get his stove working his little boy shyly waves to me and talks about water balloons. Thankfully his father translates his words for me to understand he is talking about water balloons. His daughter was still in the tent. Only then did it dawn on me there was no other adult in the group. I never asked who died and now wondered if the memorial service is for his partner. I will never know. The pot with water has a hot blue flame under it soon to be ready for coffee! I wished them a good day!

I left the campground to hike and bird watch at Lake Kegonsa State Park about a half hour drive away. The entrance fee at Wisconsin state parks is based on your license plate. Driver of a Wisconsin plate pays a $9 daily fee, non-resident pays $11. I walked almost all their trails with various cameras depending on what I thought I might see and photograph. I saw numerous birds, butterflies, wildflowers, squirrels, frogs and other people camping, jogging and walking the trails too. No swimming in the lake due to a blue – algae bloom … actually people could not even wade or touch the lake water! Park signs warn of toxins causing harm to humans and pets entering the lake water, such as skin irritations and other effects.

While I walked one trail I saw a woman arrive to the lake’s shoreline by kayak. She hopped out of her kayak into the water to do something and then hopped back in. I wondered if there are other areas of the lake with the same algal bloom concern or if it just is in the park’s swimming area. I don’t know enough about blooms.

On the White Oak Nature Trail there were 2 locations with signs noting “Indian Mounds”. Wisconsin, once the center of a prehistoric culture called “Woodland”, has the largest number of mounds built of any state in the nation and preserved on public and private lands. Much study can go into the how and why of Indian Mounds, especially since some have been here since 5,000 years ago!

Of the many birds I saw there were only 2 new birds for my life list: Eastern wood-pewee and ruby-throated hummingbird. Here are some photos from today: