Friday, June 28, 2019

Howell Station Tiny Trailer Bicycle Basecamp

Howell Station Campground, on the Des Moines River, early morning

The Volksweg Trail at is about a ten-mile ride on Lake Red Rock, the largest lake in Iowa, and also a less less than four-mile ride to the city of Pella. I'm at Howell Station Campground below the dam, a beautiful campground with spacious sites, mature shade trees, and clipped lawn. The bike trail skirts the Des Moines River, and both trail and river form one boundary of the campground, which is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.

I mention that the park is maintained by the Corps because yesterday, at the prompting of another camper, I purchased a senior pass for national parks and federal recreational lands. For five nights at Howell, I had paid online $110; after the purchase, the park agent, since I had stayed only one in five nights, adjusted my payment to the half-price status, refunding my credit card. The pass costs $20 a year, so I'm already $35 ahead. Also, if I keep the physical card after it expires, that $20 paid for the year will also be used as part of the $80 lifetime card fee if I ever decide to go that route.

Sunday, Arrival Day

Arriving during the late afternoon, I'm leaving on Friday. The weekdays are pretty easy to book; however, the weekends are pretty much reserved in advance. It was easy to back my tiny trailer into the wide, spacious gravel trailer sites. Also, I think I'm getting the knack of not over-steering while backing my tiny trailer, which is my biggest problem when backing the short trailer. Sunday I just accomplished the basics: backing in, leveling, stabilizing, and securing the trailer. I didn't even remove my bicycle from its rack on the back of the trailer. The overcast sky brought an earlier darkness, and I went to bed early, hoping for good weather the next day and a long bike ride.

Monday, Day 2

Temperatures for today were the coolest of my stay at Howell--in the low 60s--so I decided to make it the day of my longest ride, out to county campground Roberts Creek West, about 10 miles from my basecamp. Before my day ride, though, I signed up for the Senior Pass.

A section of the Volksweg Trail is shut down abutting Howell campground, due to a hydropower project. The campground attendant had given me directions, so I locked up my tiny trailer and took off on my bike with water, a protein bar, and a fine sense of adventure on a day that was not too hot nor too cold--a touch windy, but not enough to daunt my spirits. Local roads, county roads, through a residential development, and I was on the trail, a beautiful trail that took me somewhere I had never been.

Red Rock Dam

Joy of joys, I traveled through North Point Campground just above Red Rock Dam, taking time to more carefully compare cellphone receptivity with campsite numbers. Then I crossed the dam and stopped to check out the visitors' center. Off once again down county road T15, I was on the lookout for a trailhead onto the Volksweg Trail. I pedaled and pedaled, nice country and the road not too busy, until I came to a junction to three separate directions of travel. Which to take?

Checking my map, I discovered I had blithely been traveling on the side of the lake opposite the trail and was heading out into the great beyond! I wasn't anywhere near the path to my intended destination! Now, if you don't know you're on the wrong road, and don't have to really get to your destination--are you really lost? I'm not sure how to answer that question, but I did know I had no desire to ride through any more fields of corn and beans. I turned around.

Pedestrian bridge across the Des Moines River, Howell Station

Back across the dam again, which was a hoot because I had to wait in line again for some dam road construction. While loafing, I decided that I was tired enough and hungry enough to just head back to camp and whip up a nice lunch. I took the main road instead of the trail in order to knock off some miles more quickly. Up and down some pretty big Iowa hills, and then I came to a "T" intersection. Which way to turn? Neither way seemed familiar? I sighed, found some shade, and pulled out my phone to ask Google Maps (once again) where the heck I was. You guessed it--I was a mile and a half past the turn I should have taken.

I was still enjoying myself because I had started the day just wanting a nice bike ride, and I was getting it. I'd planned on about twenty miles of riding and was going to ride about twelve when all was done. That was probably for the best, though, because I hadn't been riding that much to be in the best shape, I was hungry, and I had a headwind coming home. The bottom line is that I enjoyed the ride, scoped out another campground, and once again was reminded that I'm no Daniel Boone when it comes to trailblazing. I am reminded of one story about ol' Daniel, though. He was once asked, "Have you ever been lost?" Daniel thought about the question for a while and then replied, "Wal, I've never been lost, but once I was a might confused of my whereabouts for about three months." Mr. Boone, I know the feeling!

Tuesday, Day 3

I was a beautiful morning, and after cooking scrambled eggs for breakfast, I cleaned camp and decided to take the three and a half mile bike ride into Pella. In advance, I'll tell you I was more cautious, checked Google once, and did not get lost today. Maybe I need to find a coonskin cap that will fit over my bike helmet!

A beautiful walkway leading to an inner courtyard

Pella, Iowa, is known for its spring tulip festival and all things Dutch. As such, there is a touch of the tourist town about the place, but not overdone, rather in a good way. Attention has been placed on the aesthetics of the downtown with storefronts nicely painted and shops and cafés in abundance. In too many towns, the building fronts in the old town square are boarded up. This is a wonderful alternative. I wandered the downtown area, snapping photos, gawking, and eating lunch. I took a selfie with the cook at the famous Jaarsma Bakery, which excels in breads and pastries. I enjoyed the downtown police station, which is also constructed in ye olde Dutch style. I'm sure they'll provide you with a pastry and hot chocolate while fingerprinting you.

Pella's canal, but no barges

The ride home was fun--more downhill than up; however, I noticed that my seat wasn't quite up to the saddle yet. I have a beautiful Brooks leather saddle, which over time is supposed to conform to one's (ahem) body. I'm wondering, though, if for me my body is slowly conforming to the saddle!

Tom (left) and pastry chef

I was looking forward to arriving back at camp and enjoying the hospitality of the Green Goddess. There had been forecast a chance of thunderstorms late afternoon, which eventually didn't play out until dark. A bit tired and a bit sore, I enjoyed later that night listening to the rain, snug in my bed, tucked in and cozy.

Wednesday, Day 4

Today I decided to enjoy my tiny trailer basecamp. I've ridden for two days but because of my time in the saddle, I hadn't taken the time to enjoy the campground. I slept in this morning, drinking tea and writing before cooking breakfast at ten o'clock. The rest of the morning was spent reading and enjoying the process of cooking lunch. Camp routines are soothing, and spending the morning just enjoying our camping set-up was a treat. I also enjoyed some photography while I was engaged around camp.

The electricity was off for the neighbors and for the restrooms/showers but not for my campsite. There must be separate lines for me and my neighbors. I could, of course, have gotten by without electricity. The sun was up, and with our Coleman stove and Yeti ice boxes, we were self-sufficient.

Afternoon was an easy time, too, on this rest day: lunch, clean-up, and then cruising the campground on my bike and taking notes regarding the campsite specifics. The notes should help a lot when I get home and reserve a spot again.

I think I'll take a nap this afternoon and then take some evening photographs. I've been working with my tripod and timer so that I can have a person (me) in some of the shots.

Beautiful evening light off the river

Geese at Howell Station, Des Moines River

Thursday, Day 5

I woke up this morning with the thought in mind to ride to Pella again today. After all, I was out of desserts! It would be best to ride in the morning because it was going to be in the 90s. I realized, though, that I had never actually ridden the bulk of the Volksweg Trail around the lake, just a bit near the campground and the three and a half mile trail into Pella.

I decided to ride the main trail, shooting again for Roberts West Campground. However, this time, because of the heat, I would have not only a destination in mind but also a turn-around time. If I were not very close to Roberts by 10:00 A.M., then I'd turn around. That gave me a there-and-back riding time of two and a half to three hours, and I'd be back at basecamp by 11:30, with the temperatures in the mid 80s rather than the 90s.

I was off by 8:45 retracing my route from Monday. This time, though, when I reached the fork in the trail, I stopped and checked my location on Google Maps. I believed that I had the local geography in my head now, but I wanted to actually get on the trail this time. Yes, right turn!

The Volksweg Trail winds up and down the hills which have been earth-dammed to create the body of Lake Red Rock, the main dam being concrete. It was not a difficult ride, the hills being neither excessively steep or long. A significant part of the time the trail was away from highways and even homes; however, there were times the trail skirted the highway. The lake was not always in view; in fact, much of the time the trail led through woods, the trees forming a canopy overhead. This helped keep me cool, although I made a point of taking a drink every time I stopped for a photograph.

At five minutes past ten, though, I was still about a mile away from the end of the trail, and the county campground was about two and a half miles farther down the highway past the trail's end. I'd ridden about eight and a half miles, almost the entire trail, and because of the heat and the desire to not put off lunch, decided to hold to my turn-around time. Good idea, Tom! I arrived back at camp not overheated or over-hungry. It had definitely turned hot and humid, though, so I showered and ate, rested and wrote, enjoying the effectiveness of the AC.

This situation does illustrate the effectiveness of a tiny trailer as a bicycle basecamp for day rides. When the weather is intensely hot or cold (or humid or windy or rainy), the intensity doesn't have to wear you down. You can get away from it until the next day. I've gone on week tours if not world tours with my bicycle, and part of the joy of bicycle touring is carrying your house and possessions in your panniers or trail (really tiny trailers!) These joys are not in competition with basecamp tiny trailer joys, though. Just choose which joy you want for the current tour.

Right now I'm enjoying taking day rides and then returning to my tiny trailer basecamp. The reasons are not complicated. One is that I'm just enjoying my tiny trailer and want to add the joy of bicycling to that. Another is that I want to include my wife in my meanders, and because of her business and predilections, we're not going to meander for more than day rides on our bicycles. At least not in the now. Incorporating bicycling and family successfully into one experience is very rewarding for me. And, to be completely honest, maybe I'm getting old enough to appreciate having the option of comfort if I want it!

Friday, Departure Day

I packed up most of camp last night so that this morning hooking up will be the only requirement. That gives me time to check out Wallashuck Campground, which is just four and a half miles away and also an Army Corps campground. I rode past it on yesterday's jaunt. I've been told its newer, and reviews say it has good access to the lake.

So I'm finishing up this diary report of my camping here at Howell Station Campground. It's been a fun, relaxing time. Last night the low temperature was 75 degrees, so this was the best opportunity since buying the camper to use the air conditioning. I found that for sleeping, setting the temperature and fan on the automatic setting worked best for keeping the temperature stable at around 72. The high yesterday was in the low 90s.

I had an experience while riding on Thursday for the 17 miles or so that in a way sums up this camping trip. I was riding but couldn't seem to settle down, my attention jumping from an awareness of the hills to my muscles to my seat, my mind having random thoughts and just being over-active in general. And then after about ten miles of riding, I found my everything just smoothed out. My muscles just did their job.

In this camping and bicycling expedition, I've enjoyed the opportunity to step back from societal routine and just live according to the weather and according to the rhythms of the moment, whatever activity I've been engaged in. "See the job, do the job, stay out of the misery." Such good advice! I think that's one reason people enjoy camping--enjoying the rhythms of nature. I hope you have enjoyed following the narrative of my tiny trailer bicycle basecamp expedition. This experience has been a good reminder of the basis or our lives and happiness, the role of nature in our lives.

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(Note: As the content for Green Goddess Glamping evolves, sometimes content focus will dictate that articles will be posted on some Facebook groups and not others. Articles on Dutch oven cooking, portable toilets, or bicycle day rides, for instance, could find posts in different groups. The best way to ensure that you are receiving all articles is to subscribe to follow this blog by email notifications.)

Friday, June 21, 2019

Milestone: 10 Tiny Trailer Owner Profiles for Your Pleasure

Mark Busha's Prolite in the American Southwest

Tiny trailer owner profiles are among the most favorite articles for Green Goddess Glamping's readership and also for the writer of the articles--namely, me. It's a great joy to discover what tiny trailer owners and campers have in common and what unique camping practices also exist out there. The enthusiasm that readers have displayed regarding the profiles led me to establishing a page beneath Green Goddess Glamping's header, Owner Profiles, where the profiles are aggregated and easy to find with titles, links, and thumbnail photos and lead sentences.

Cass Beach and her Airstream Basecamp

Becky Shade and her Hiker Trailer

Jo and John Fesler with their RTTC Papa Bear

Really, it's such a pleasure to look at all the great rigs in all those great places--mountains and desert, ocean and plains. This article is just a reminder of all the great articles to read. I'm looking forward to finding and interviewing even more interesting and diverse tiny trailer owners in the next ten profiles. To be honest, in these first ten I was trying to both establish the format and style of these profiles and also to convince tiny trailer owners to be interviewed for an article. At the beginning, I started with owners that I already had connected with online, several having trailers made by the same builder as mine. Now with ten owner articles written, it's much easier to convey what the content will look like. Green Goddess Glamping has established its credibility as a tiny trailer and camping resource for pleasure and information. Below are a few observation about the ten owner profiles that have been written.


Analyzing the homebase locations of the ten tiny trailer owners profiles, there were a few surprises. I didn't realize that four are from the Midwest: two from the upper Midwest, Michigan and Wisconsin; and two to the south, Iowa and Missouri (and perhaps I should call that three because one profile included two sisters from Iowa who roll in separate teardrops). Two profiles are about owners based in South Carolina; one profile is on an Oregon artist couple who made their own teardrop. Two articles profile women who live full-time in their tiny trailers, whom I place in an "itinerant" category (or as one person said in a comment to a recent blog post, "Houseless but not homeless.") Finally, I also had the pleasure of profiling a couple who live in Canada, just outside Banff National Park AB. Right now, I'm hoping to convince some folks in South America to see if we can write a profile of another homemade teardrop. Photos of Patagonia, anyone?

Jennifer Tipping shared many beautiful moments with her photographs

One of the Traveling Teardrop Sisters, Betty Hanscum enjoying a fall season theme with her T@G

Campfire cooking is a common pastime, here with the Seuberts and their TC Teardrop

Tiny Trailer Brands

Because I own a Rustic Trail Teardrop Camper (RTTC) brand, and because there are several RTTC Facebook groups, many of my online connections are related to that brand. Much of my owner profile search, therefore, has been to make contacts outside of the trailer brand I own in order to increase variety. I've been somewhat successful. I'll list the rigs owned in the ten profiles I've written so far. I've added the T@B because Jennifer Tipping and Scott Jevons have recently switched rigs from their Little Guy. I also added the Casita because Becky Schade had recently purchased her Hiker Trailer at the time of the profile. Many of the articles on her website include the Casita. I have considered that sometime in the future I might write a series of builder profiles. However, there are so many, I'm not sure how I'd go about selecting--being fair while choosing a few and excluding the many. That might be a winter project.

Rob Dickerson's RTTC Kodiak displaying some custom vinyl

Tiny trailer (RTTC Grizzly), bicycles, canoe: the Gandys fully interact with their camping world

The Harros, epitomizing the teardrop tradition with their retro homemade tiny trailer

In the end, even though I've tried for diversity and uniqueness in each tiny trailer owner profile, what actually comes across in the profiles are the common features that unify the owners--and connect them to us as tiny trailer owners. Tiny trailer owners love the outdoors, they love to travel, and they have a positive regard for their place in the world. They share a passion for living and camping small, believing that being in nature has a rejuvenative effect upon the individual.

Tiny trailer owners are enthusiastic about their gadgets, their camping hobbies, and how they roll. They are eager to share and learn. They like to help. I've discovered these traits in tiny trailer owners, which is the focus of the Green Goddess Glamping blog, but these traits are also common among the many other campers and RVers I've interacted with as an RVer and blog administrator. Perhaps that's one of the main benefits of camping in the great outdoors: we discover how beautiful our world is and that people are actually pretty doggone nice. I'm really looking forward to writing my next ten tiny trailer owner profiles.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

All About Tiny Trailer "Gramping" with the Grandkids

I'm a little tired, so I tell my four-year-old granddaughter that I'm going to take a nap in the bedroom. She says, "I'll take one with you!" I'm sure you see how this is going to go down . . .

We head into the bedroom, I cover my granddaughter with a little throw, myself with another, and then I close my eyes. The granddaughter gets up to do something and then comes and lies back down. We close our eyes. Granddaughter gets a book. Eyes close. Gets a doll and tucks her in. It's about then that I decide to count to myself the seconds when she actually is lying down--yep, never longer than fifteen seconds.

How does this apply to tiny trailer camping? Well, my wife and I have decided we want to take the grandkids "gramping" with us, but we're not exactly sure how it's going to work with two kids, four and six years old, and a tiny trailer that sleeps two.

This new term "gramping" from "grandparents camping with grandkids," is all about providing an opportunity for "skip-gen" family members bonding while providing time for parents to take a break from parenting responsibilities. This new term is known as a "portmanteau," a combining of two word sounds to make a new word (think how motor and hotel became motel a "motor hotel"). Camping with grandchildren is, of course, not something new. Grandkids have been visiting--and camping--with grandparents since, probably, forever.

However, since the Baby Boom generation is retiring in record numbers and hitting the travel recreation trail, we also now have gramping as a clever deviation from another popular term--glamping, "glamorous camping." From my research, it appears a number of the articles on gramping reference the online Boomer magazine's article, "Skip-Gen Travel: Bonding with Grandkids on the Road."

Since my wife and I are trying to figure out how to camp in a tiny trailer with two grandchildren, I decided to solicit advice from a Facebook tiny trailer group regarding small spaces and small kids. I'm glad I did because I received some solid, helpful suggestions, most of them involving two possibilities: tents or van/SUV beds.

Adding a tent to the tiny camping experience involved three possibilities:
  • Roof tents, either on the teardrop or on the vehicle
  • Side tents, connecting either to the teardrop or the vehicle
  • Conventional tents, set up at the campsite
Several group members mentioned using roof tents. I've seen some awesome examples of roof tents both online and at campgrounds. They get you off the ground and provide a stable platform. Sandy and I aren't going to be camping enough with the grandkids, right now, for this kind of investment, although it would certainly add to our camping potential.

Side tents are a viable addition to tiny trailer camping, especially with the smaller trailers. One group respondent (parents, not grandparents) said: "We have a side tent that attaches to the side of the trailer. Our boys are five and three, and they either sleep on an air mattress or we bring cots." Another group member posted photos of the solution they used when their grandkids were younger: "When ours were younger we used an SUV tent meant for the rear of an SUV and attached to the tear. Worked perfect." Below two photos show what their set-up looked like.

A teardrop with side tent (Cathy Frost photo)

Side tent interior, seen from the teardrop perspective (Cathy Frost photo)

Since our trailer is a "standy," any attaching side tent would have to be eight feet tall to allow the camper door to open. For us, then, attaching side tents aren't all that useable. However, attachable side tents are commonly used by tiny trailer owners, greatly expanding useable inside space.

The easiest and quickest solution is for us to include a conventional tent to our campsite. Not being connected to the trailer means that if young kids sleep in the tent, at least one grandparent will also be tenting it. "Young backs conform to the ground better than old backs," was one comment. Another provided more detail: "I have a big tent we all sleep in. I also have a cot and pull my mattress out of the teardrop to put on it." Just moving into a tent for a while could be the solution.

My wife and I bought our tiny trailer to get away from tenting, but that doesn't mean we didn't like the tenting experience--when conditions were optimal. Actually, we own a really great tent, a Big Agnes Big House, which would hold all of us. We might just tent camp with the grandkids and keep our standy set up as the dining room/extra room (or a haven for bad weather).

Big Agnes Town House, with vestibule

The utilization of our SUV as a second sleeping space is also an interesting option, especially since we have a sunroof that opens. If I could cover that opening and one window with netting to bug-proof the vehicle, then I could sleep there while grandma and the kids sleep in the trailer. I'll have to check out the space and flatness of the dropped seats. As one gramper said, "I sleep in the suv. With pads in the back end," another adding, "We have a foam fold-out bed in the van. It's delightful. Husband and grandson in the teardrop."

Other suggestions were for grandpa and grandma to split up with the sleeping arrangements, each taking one child. The other obvious suggestion would be to just take one grandkid camping at a time. Two adults and a kid could be managed in our teardrop, or if more than one kid, the solution could be what one grandpa stated: "Grandpa sleeps in his tent. The princesses, I mean granddaughters, get the teardrop."

Beside how to house the grandkids when camping, the gramping articles online also suggest what grandparents need to remind themselves in order for the camping experience to be fun for everyone. We don't want grandpa and grandma getting too tired or the grandkids getting too bored!

Gramping Considerations
  • Know your grandkids. Don't start the trip as strangers.
  • Have them help you plan. Include the grandkids in the process.
  • Give the kids things to do, even things they are responsible for. Kids are active. If you don't provide opportunities for them to do things, they'll think of things to do on their own (which maybe wouldn't be your first choice).
  • See if there are opportunities for interaction with other kids. And, grandparents, be ready and able to participate in kid activities.
I would add a few ideas of my own. One would be prior to the trip discuss electronics--when, where, and how often. You can't get to know one another if the attention is always on the electronic devices. However, those devices are a part of the kids' lives, so maybe work together on making a video documentary of that trip to the zoo or having them teach you a game, something like that. Electronics also can provide the kids with some private diversion and a little down time for the grandparents. Another suggestion would be to have a good idea of the cooking menu--both favorite foods and maybe some new introductions. And let the kids help cook in some way. Remember, kids like to do stuff, not just watch. Finally, pay attention to the kids' energy levels and to your own. People get grumpy when they're tired. Be willing to adjust schedules to fit energy and interest levels.

 Whether it's hotels, ocean cruises, tents, big RVs, or tiny trailers, grandparents are taking their grandkids on great adventures. Tiny trailers provide some space limitation challenges for adventurers; however, solutions are available so that you can have a great time gramping, no matter what the exact configuration of your campsite.

And if you're planning on having available some movies to share that are great for both adults and kids, I like the Shrek movies, and I've also heard that the Toy Story movies are great. I'm sure you have your own ideas, though, and if by some chance you don't--just ask the kids.

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Friday, June 14, 2019

How Ruben Rolls: the 8,000-Mile Tiny Trailer "Maiden Voyage"

Bears in the Wild

"I have wanted a travel trailer for a while, and I was considering a larger Winnebago Micro Minnie or something like an R-Pod.  I even visited a couple dealers but dreaded another monthly payment. The RTTC Grizzly was the perfect answer. What was going to be my down payment would just about pay for the whole trailer."

"So excited! Dropping this in the mail today. After a year of lurking, sending in my order for a new Grizzly!"

And this is the story about how Ruben G. Soto rolled from April 26 through May 25, over 8,200 miles and through twenty-one states, from California to North Carolina, to pick up his Rustic Trails Teardrop Grizzly camper.

Sequoia Nat'l Park
"I followed the owners’ group for a while and decided this was the solution I needed. Enough room for me and my dog and more interior space than a traditional teardrop while keeping a sleek retro style. I thought about having it shipped, but how could I pass up on driving cross country! I started planning a route and making reservations long before I put down my deposit."

Ruben isn't the kind of person who takes off on a quest to "find himself" or to discover some spiritual revelation, although "there's nothing wrong with people doing that." He's quite happy in life and was just looking for a new experience. "I took this solo trip because I knew this was a beautiful country and I wanted to see more of it." He didn't really travel alone, though; rather, he traveled with the memory of his brother, who passed away a year and a half ago while waiting for a heart transplant. "On [my brother's] bucket list and something that we would have done had he gotten out of the hospital was a cross country road trip. I took his spirit with me on this trip, and I know he was looking down and enjoying it."

The trip turned out to be a beautiful "before and after" story of Ruben sleeping in tents, of rain, of Ruben sleeping in his truck cab, and finally of Ruben sleeping in his brand-spanking new tiny trailer. He breaks his odyssey into three segments: "The West," "Midwest Storms," and "Trailer Fun," saying that "each area was so unique and enjoyable that a full book on each stop couldn’t do it justice."

How Ruben rolled: the northern route heading out to NC; the southern on the return to CA

The Western Segment

The Western segment passed through the states of California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado, exploring beautiful forest (Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park) to desert (the Loneliest Road in America, Arches National Park and Moab scenic areas, and the Great Sand Dunes National Park). Lots of wide open spaces and long roads were the outstanding qualities of this leg of the trip.

The Arches

Ruben hadn’t camped in Colorado before, and both the camping and driving experiences were amazing. He started at Colorado National Monument and the famous Rim Rock Drive with its canyon views and climbing curves. "It was the first time I saw bighorn sheep. From there I went to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park with pinon trees and the namesake canyon cut by the Gunnison River. This was the cheapest campsite at four dollars a night – half price because the water was still turned off for the winter.  I couldn’t miss the chance to drive the Million Dollar Highway and went as far as Silverton. It’s a small mountain town with one paved road but a small local café serving a delicious hot breakfast."

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado

One spot that Ruben plans to visit again is Arches National Park, where he was able to tent camp high and dry, surrounded by beauty. "I did a few hikes there, and the sights were awe inspiring. I could have easily stayed there for a week. The campground was in a great location with the sites away from most of the general traffic of the park, and my site was facing beautiful rock formations with visiting wildlife (deer, birds, and lizards)."

Silverton, Colorado

As if there couldn’t be more, Ruben also went to the Great Sand Dunes National Park "that looks like a desert landscape right next to snowcapped mountains." His last stop in the state was Manitou Springs outside Colorado Springs and a drive up Pikes Peak. "I felt the thin air at the summit with the cold, biting wind while looking down at civilization from 14,000 feet up."

Great Sand Dunes

The Midwest Storms Segment

The Midwest was where Ruben experienced the most rain: Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware. Yes, some of these states aren't Midwest, but the rain was the unifying factor for this segment. In Kansas he hit a huge storm "with roaring thunder and lightning." He didn't take as many photographs of this segment or of the rainy terrain because he was focusing more on the drive and the miles. "I did kind of rush through because I didn't stay anywhere more than one night in this segment and I didn't leave myself a lot of time to explore."

Rain in Kansas

"The weather made for a few challenging days. One of the more disappointing moments of the trip was the last four nights before reaching Maryland. Each night it rained, and I absolutely did not want to have to pack up a wet tent, so I didn’t set it up. Instead I slept in my truck. Thankfully it is plenty big with room to lie on the seat almost flat. One of the downsides was that the rain hitting the metal roof often woke me up early or kept me awake so I didn’t sleep very well those nights. I feel a little bad complaining about the weather, seeing as how it is so much worse right now, but that was definitely the most challenging part of the trip."
The Trailer Fun Segment

The trailer segment was so varied that Ruben feels it really could be almost five groups on its own as he traveled through North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California on his way home. "From the beautiful Blue Ridge to the rolling Kentucky Bluegrass to the Hot Springs of Arkansas to Route 66 to the Grand Canyon to the Mojave and San Bernardino Mountains in California," it was an experience of varied geography and history, all of which Ruben rolled through with his brand new tiny trailer.

Maker's Mark Distillery

"I became a bit of a bourbon drinker about ten years ago after a work trip to Louisville. Though I had long been a whiskey drinker, it was this trip that exposed me more to the all-American spirit, and I soon changed my habits. While there I also learned about the “bourbon trail” and the all the distilleries in Kentucky. Since then, I knew that if I ever made it back that way, I would have to visit at least one. So when planning the trip, I made sure two distilleries were on the list (originally three, but I cut one out so I could ensure plenty of time at the other two)."

Maker's Mark, one of Ruben's favorite stops

"It is a beautiful campus facility across several barn-like buildings all painted in a matching black and red motif among soft, rolling acres of perfect green grass and broad shady trees. There’s even a small creek running through. Learning and seeing the process from grain to bottle was fun and inspiring. The fermenting room was humid, warm, and had a delicious smell that was maybe a combination of beer and oatmeal with a touch of sweetness. I think even non-whiskey drinkers would enjoy this tour. If I hadn’t already spent so much on souvenirs, I probably would have had lunch at their on-site restaurant that tempted me with farm-fresh food and of course, a bourbon-based specialty cocktail menu. I would love to visit some of the distilleries I missed and definitely make a return trip to Maker’s."
Lakeside beauty reflecting off the windows at Tompkins Bend Campground, Arkansas. "This was one of those stops where I could have stayed a few days and been perfectly happy. The ranger when checking me in complimented my site choice (I basically had my pick since I reserved it the day the reservation window opened six months earlier) and was genuinely disappointed that I was only going to be there one night. I understood why."

One highlight for Ruben on his trip home was getting to visit his alma mater. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2002 and hadn't been back since. "It brought back so many memories to be able to walk the campus again and even catch up with my old roommate."

University of Oklahoma

Traveling home, Ruben had plenty of miles and pavement to get used to pulling his new rig. "Route 66 was fun. I was definitely not a purist by staying on the road the whole time and portions are merged with I-40." Ruben enjoyed going through old towns, even just to drive through. If he hadn't been on a schedule, he  could have "spent ages exploring some of these towns."

Tucumcari, New Mexico

Ruben found the roads maintained fairly well, no worse than others. "Yes, of course, there are potholes here and there, but I did not get the feeling of abandonment or anything. Route 66 cuts through the Texas panhandle, and most of it is just I-40 with only a few towns where Route 66 separates off then merges back on." He did drive Route 66, but it was also a lot of Interstate driving. He did make a point of driving through Amarillo, from off the Interstate.

Unexpected snow at the Grand Canyon

Arriving at the Grand Canyon, Ruben stayed there for two nights.  He had never been, "and it was a great visit staying at Mather Campground. Booking early really pays off since I am still new to towing and wanted to get a pull through spot with the door facing the campsite." I didn't go down into the canyon, but I walked the South Rim Trail from the main visitor center to the village. I loved the El Tovar where I had a small lunch at the bar with a cocktail made with whiskey from a local distillery. I took the shuttle to Hermit's Rest and on the way out of the park visited Desert View Watchtower."

How the RTTC Grizzly Rolled

"The Grizzly trailer was fantastic. Everything went smoothly from the pick up at RTTC headquarters to driving hundreds of miles in one day." Even when Ruben missed a turn and had to make a U-turn, he knew he could make it with the small trailer.

"I am still not fully comfortable with backing up, but my truck came with a trailer back-up assist system that has made it so much easier." Before he set up the system at the first campground, he spent easily twenty minutes just getting both wheels of the trailer and the four wheels of his truck on the asphalt pad at the campsite.  He still ended up with everything parked skewed, but he was done and just put it in park and called it a night.

The trailer was perfect for Ruben during the couple of nights it rained or was just cold. "I didn’t have to even consider sleeping the in truck like some nights before I got the trailer and didn’t have to deal with packing myself into a sleeping bag. It even snowed overnight once, and I woke up to a winter wonderland in late May." He felt bad for the tent campers with their setup covered in the fresh powder, but didn't mind that he was able to easily hook up and drive off.
"The days I had driving the trailer home also reinforced that I have made the right decision for me by choosing a trailer without a kitchen that takes up space inside or in a hatch. I love cooking outside as part of the camping experience and without a kitchen taking up space, I have more room in the trailer to get ready, sleep, work on the computer, or just read. There were simple things about a trailer that brought more joy to the experience. In the rain I could crack the window a bit, hear the calming taps of the drops on the lake while sitting on a comfortable sofa curled up with a book. You can’t do that in a tent."

"While crossing the country was absolutely beautiful, it also was a reminder to me about how much I have right in my own state," Ruben says. "I started with the largest trees in the world and ended in the driest desert in the nation. [California] holds part of the legendary Route 66 and lakeside mountain retreats. I’m looking forward to a quick getaway, taking the Grizzly to an oceanside beach campground with my dog."

Eight thousand plus miles, and now Ruben is a happy camper in his tiny trailer, just waiting for his next adventure. "I do see how people can spend months on the road at a time and maybe when I retire (in 25-30 years haha) I could see myself doing something like that (though maybe in a slightly larger rig). I think the trip lived up to everything I was looking for. I had lots of opportunity to see great sights, visit eleven National Parks, eat tasty food along the way and just be in nature." As long as Ruben is pulling his "tiny trailer" teardrop, it sounds like singer Nat King Cole's advice applies to any road Ruben rides:
Well, if you ever plan to motor west
Travel my way
Take the highway that's the best
Get your kicks on Route 66

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Fine Art, the Computer, and Nature: Lynn Wollstadt Paints in Pixels

On the Wisconsin River, 2018

Get in your canoe . . . drift down the Current River in Missouri . . . camp on the river . . . and then get our your iPad and paint some digital art on your computer canvas. This is how computer artist Lynn Wollstadt finds and expresses her muse.

April, Current River and Canoe

Lynn creating computer art "en plein air" on the Current River

Last January Lynn bought a new iPad, a "fancy Apple pencil," and now draws all the time using AdobeSketch software. "It's so convenient!" she says. Although there are many apps for drawing, she picked AdobeSketch because it seemed so simple and would let her do what she wanted, which was to just draw realistically in different media, "the same ones I would use in real life but never get around to because of the hassle of supplies, set-up, and needing a dedicated work space." The iPad solution allowed Lynn to integrate her art easily into her busy professional teaching schedule. With her computer art, she was able to return to the artistic passion that she had when she was younger and "drew constantly for a few years, winning a prize or two in high school, but never taking an art class in college."

The Turtle-Flambeau flowage on the Wisconsin River
"As far as the process goes, when I feel like drawing (which is pretty much every day, especially now that it’s summer I have have more time), I just reach for my iPad, open a project, and draw! As I’ve gotten more proficient at learning the features of the app (at first I didn’t know how to make the watercolor stop spreading—it acts like real watercolor on wet paper), I’ve changed my methods some. I’ll often do a first layer with a pencil sketch, then open a new layer and start in colors. You can show or hide layers, rearrange them, make them more or less opaque, and I’m sure there are still lots of things I don’t know about." 
 When Lynn works with AdobeSketch and the Apple Pencil, she never overlays a photo--"that seems like cheating to me (but you can totally do that)." She usually has a photo up on her phone and her iPad on her lap when she draws. "The cool thing about using AdobeSketch (or one of the other art apps) is that I can choose pencil, watercolor, acrylics, or any other kind of media. It's really amazing. I took a photo of a friend at the dog park a couple weeks ago and then did a 'pencil' sketch at home; it looks just like pencil. I tend to do landscapes in watercolor, with maybe pen when I need finer lines."

The first camping trip on which Lynn computer painted was on the canoe trip on Missouri's Current River in April. "We canoed and camped on gravel bars for three nights. I drew every day, but not everything was a keeper. The only one I finished on the spot was the moonrise pic, which was so satisfying because it was so beautiful and COMPLETELY didn’t show up when I tried to take a picture."

Moonrise on the Current River

"I love drawing in nature!" Lynn says. "Sometimes it was too sunny and even with my no-glare screen covering it was too bright to really see what I was doing, but I spent quite a bit of time drawing on that trip....often lying in my hammock drawing the trees above me. The picture of the Current River I started drawing there and then finished at home, looking at different photos. I am finding nature scenes are my favorite to draw just now because I work from photos from previous trips, and it helps me remember!"

The Current River, Missouri

Lynn and her family always tent camp. They do like the idea of a tiny camp trailer for sometime in the future, but for now, their main goal for camping is to not be near other people. "That’s why we love canoe camping so much!" They are not backpackers, and took up camping again by car camping nine years ago.  They had not camped for decades. "I did have some old camping equipment, so our first couple of trips were car camping at small Michigan state forest campgrounds. Then over the next couple of years we discovered canoe camping on rivers in Wisconsin and realized it was ideal for us. Camping in completely isolated places, accessible only by water, but we were still able to bring plenty of gear, a cooler, and our dogs!"

Evening camp on the Current River

Portraits are a challenge Lynn enjoys. "Drawing any kind of portrait is a very intimate experience, really staring at a face and figuring out how that person is put together." She likes to draw the people she cares about, and she always draws from photos that "reveal the personality of the subject."

Lynn Wollstadt, self-portrait

However, landscape painting is Lynn's favorite right now, "hands down, because I'm so desperate to go camping and won't be able to for another couple of weeks at least." When she camps and takes her own photographs, while painting those places from the photos, "the scene takes me back there . . . feeling the air, hearing the sounds." How can we blame her? That's why we all like camping. It's easy to understand Lynn's enthusiasm for canoe camping, right? It's kind of like aquatic tiny trailer camping!

Below is a painting by Lynn of a sandbar on the Wisconsin River, composed from a photo she took last year while camping. Following the painting is a time-lapse video that shows the step-by-step process by which the above painting was created.

Wisconsin River

For those of us tiny trailer campers who like Lynn's digital art, when asked if she'd draw any tiny trailer "portraits" as commission work, she said, "I'd love to!" Her art webpage is Drawings by Design, which includes images of her art and FAQs. She also has photos of her work posted on her Facebook page, Lynn Wollstadt, Artist

However, we here at Green Goddess Glamping hope that you won't be able to contact Lynn for a time--a few days or weeks or maybe a month, that she'll be off into the wild, camping and painting "in completely isolated places, accessible only by water." Sounds just plain wonderful!

(To read all the Green Goddess Glamping art and craft articles, check out the Art and Craft Activities label link, which aggregates all similar posts.)

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