Fall has arrived here in The Swamp off the Saint Johns River in DeBary, Central Florida. The night before last I woke up shivering despite being covered with a blanket. I struggled in the dark to get it folded double and was able to resume sleeping soundly. Same thing last night, but I have my light weight sleeping bag tucked into the space between my bed frame and the side of the SUV. Dug it out in the dark and slept soundly. So sound that I woke up nearly an hour later than usual because I was so snug. At a quarter to eight it was 64F. That might not seem cold to you denizens of the Great White North, but for months, here, high 70s has been the norm for a low.
It reminds me of the climate in Boqueron, Chiriqui, Panama where I lived for eight years. Afternoon temps would be in the upper 90sF. I used to love it when my neighbors who had been born their and whose families had lived there for a century of two would say, “Ayiee, Richard, hace calor, hoy.” (Ayiee, Richard, it’s hot, today.)
My response was always, “Es mejor que un metre de nieve.” (It’s better than three feet of snow.) Boqueron is surrounded by mountains including Volcan Barú, Panama’s highest peak. After sunset the cool air from the mountains would creep down the slopes and by morning the temperature would be down in the low 60sF like it was this morning here in The Swamp.
It’s that time of year…Hurricane season. And there’s trouble brewing in the tropics as I write this. The National Hurricane Center is calling it “PotentialTropical Cyclone Six” right now since it hasn’t formed a circular pattern and reached minimum sustained winds of 39 mph of 1 minute duration to be officially categorized as a tropical storm and given a name. YET!
Florida falls within the “Cone of Uncertainty.” It looks, now, as though the area most impacted will be to the east of the current predicted track as it moves along the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The bad news is that the worst area of winds and rain in tropical storms and hurricanes is on the north east quadrant of the system. Where I am!
I have reservations for a week at the Stephen Foster State Park on the Suwannee River starting on Thursday. According to the Hurricane Center the earliest expected arrival of tropical storm force winds around that area might be Friday night to Saturday morning. I have no idea what effect this might have on my being able to stay at the park. In any case, it certainly won’t be tent weather, that’s for sure. But I’ll have everything packed and stowed from being on the road and am able to sleep in the SUV. Cooking isn’t going to happen in the vehicle, but I’ll just get sandwich stuff and survive well enough for a couple of days.
I quite like this camping thing. But, like everything else in life it has its good and bad sides. The bad for me here at Three Rivers State Park in Sneads, FL, is that I seem to have chosen a site that offers very little shade. On Saturday and Sunday ,many of the campers departed. I’m writing this at the picnic table two sites away towards the water. It is gloriously shady. There’s also a slight breeze, and over by my tent it’s becoming stifling.
I’ve been living small for quite a few years. Twenty-two foot sailboat with just sitting headroom. Now SUV, but can stand up in the tent, Then I look across the street at a guy, all by his lonesome, getting ready to hit the road in his 5th-wheel camper with slide outs. Makes no sense to me. Same as when I was driving for the airport pickups in southeast Florida. I’d take withered, elderly people to mini-mansions and it was like dropping a couple of BBs into a 55 gallon barrel.
Then he spotted me and came over and started chatting. Telling me about how the FBI, the DOJ and others were trading him. Blocking his internet service. Placing tracking devices on his truck. He wasn’t going to let anybody stick a needle in his arm with “no vaccine.” I just sat silently nodding my head and “tsk tsking” along. When I told him I’d been invaded by an army of tiny ants that bit like crazy he went over to his rig and brought me some spray as well as a six pack of Miller Lites.
Got food and drink to last me the rest of my stay here.
One advantage of being in Facebook Prison and not being able to post or comment is that it frees up the time normally wasted on that to do other things. Take today, for instance…
Having decided that I’d stick to the Mitsubishi until it either makes the big loop or falls apart along the way, I need to have more internal space. Yesterday I lay down in back and there was JUST enough room from the back of the front seats to the back door of the vehicle. JUST! So this morning I dismantled the seats. Or more specifically, seat. There’s just the one. It was unbelievably simple. Six bolts total. Gives me almost a full foot of extra reclining space. The worst thing about the back space, however, is the large amount of room taken up by the covers of the wheel wells. But the only thing I can do is work around them.
Yesterday my youngest brother, Mark, called for some information about our brothers who died in infancy. He didn’t know either of them and I only have a vague remembrance of the second one. Brother Jim died before he was two and I was only three.
Anyway, I told Mark that I’d looked at the minivan and decided not to buy it and we got to talking about camping. When I was in grade school we used to spend the entire summer, from the day school let out until the day after Labor Day at Nickerson State Park in Brewster, Mass, out near the elbow of Cape Cod. Mom and dad lived in a small trailer.
Brothers David and Gary slept in a tent with me. Dad had started Philbrick’s Snack Shack down at Skaket Beach on the Bay Side of Orleans and would leave every morning for work. I think the last time I slept in a tent was when I was, maybe 11 or 12 years old. Way more than half a century ago.
Mark, and brothers Gary and Jeff were all Eagle Scouts. Jeff has been a life-long devotee to scouting and has served in various capacities within the organization and helped kids learn survival skills in the wild. Jeff also hiked a great deal of the Appalachian Trail until blowing his knees. His son Ken, on the other hand, through hiked the trail after getting out of the Army. In our conversation, until my phone ran completely out of juice, Mark said that he’d given up back packing and had been doing a lot of car camping over the past couple of years He said he bought a Coleman Instant Tent. The 6-person model because it has 6-foot headroom and can be set up in, literally, a couple of minutes.
Even with my COPD I should be able to do that without overtaxing myself. I was so impressed that I immediately got on Amazon and ordered one!
A tent is going to be essential for this adventure for a lot of reasons. I plan on using National Park Lands and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds along with state parks as much as possible to keep expenses reasonable. Many places don’t allow you to stay in your vehicle and require a tent. It also gives a place to use one’s bucket toilet, to change clothes, and simply a place to chill out in on those days when it’s raining and dreary. Should be a lot more comfortable than being stuck inside the SUV.
More to come…
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