Some Resources for Working Against Racism

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This is not the blog post I want to write today. It’s not the blog post I want to write, ever, but things are bad right now, and I want to share some resources so each of us can work toward solving the problem.

First, a recap.

We’re in the middle of a national emergency due to COVID-19. Some states are opening up, but a lot of people are still sick, more people are getting sick, and it looks like some people are going to suffer the results of COVID-19 for the rest of their lives. Some people have been stuck at home since mid-March. Oh, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says,

current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups.

On May 25, a white woman, Amy Cooper, called the cops on an African-American man, Christian Cooper (no relation between the two, I’m supposed to say here) who asked her to leash her dog in an area of Central Park where dogs are required to be leashed. Mr. Cooper began recording Ms. Cooper. According to CNN, Ms. Cooper approached Mr. Cooper and he asked her not to come any closer to him. He

asks her again not to come close. That’s when Amy Cooper says she’s going to call the police.

“I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” she says.

Once she reached emergency dispatch, she told the dispatcher,

“There’s a man, African American, he has a bicycle helmet,” she says. “He is recording me and threatening me and my dog…”

“I’m being threatened by a man in the Ramble,” she continues in an audibly distraught voice . “Please send the cops immediately!”

Later that same day, an unarmed 46-year-old African-American man named George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. You can read the whole story on the WCCO 4 CBS Minnessota website.

Over the weekend there were protests across the country, buildings burning, looting. A report by CNN mentions demonstrations in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Los Angeles, New York City, Denver, Nashville, Atlanta, Tampa, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia.

So how are these events related? Trevor Noah of The Daily Show made a video explaining the connections better than I ever could. Please, if you don’t understand what this national crisis is all about, please watch this video where Trevor Noah connects the dots between the COVID-19 emergency, Amy Cooper calling the cops as a means of threatening an African-American man, the murder of George Floyd, and the subsequent protests and “looting.” This video is definitely worth watching.

If you don’t want to or don’t have time to watch Trevor Noah’s video, let me make something clear. Neither white folks calling the cops on black people and other people of color (POC) nor cops killing black people and other people of color (POC) is anything new. It’s been happening for a long, long time. Here’s a list CNN published on December 28, 2018 called “Living While Black.” Author Brandon Griggs says,

…police across the United States have been urged to investigate black people for doing all kinds of daily, mundane, noncriminal activities.

Each item on the list (Golfing too slowly, Shopping for prom clothes, Helping a homeless man, for example) links to a more detailed report of the incident.

In the CNN article “Peaceful Protesters and Violent Instigators Defy Curfews after George Floyd’s Death” authors Christina Maxouris and Holly Yan report,

One community activist said while many protesters don’t condone violence, nonviolent pleas have “gone unnoticed for years.”

“This is what happens when people have experienced the deadliness of racism … over and over again,” said the Rev. William Barber, the Co-Chair of Poor People’s Campaign. “What we are seeing is public mourning.”

Have you seen this content that’s been going around on Facebook?

I have privilege as a white person because I can do all of these things without thinking twice:
I can go birding (#ChristianCooper)
I can go jogging (#AmaudArbery)
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson)
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride)
I can have a cellphone (#StephonClark)
I can leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards)
I can play loud music (#JordanDavis)
I can sell CDs (#AltonSterling)
I can sleep (#AiyanaJones)
I can walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown)
I can play cops and robbers (#TamirRice)
I can go to church (#Charleston9)
I can walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin)
I can hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell)
I can party on New Years (#OscarGrant)
I can get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland)
I can lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile)
I can break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones)
I can shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford)
I can have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher)
I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott)
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover)
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese)
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans)
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood)
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo)
I can run (#WalterScott)
I can breathe (#EricGarner)
I can live (#FreddieGray)
I CAN BE ARRESTED WITHOUT THE FEAR OF BEING MURDERED (#GeorgeFloyd)
White privilege is real. Take a minute to consider a Black person’s experience today.

#BlackLivesMatter

This is what I am talking about today: white privilege and Black Lives Matter. Today I’m saying that we as white people need to learn about our privilege, check our privilege, and work to undo the racism the United States of America was built upon.

The number one thing I do NOT want you to do in order to learn more about white privilege and undoing racism is to ask your POC friends, neighbors, family members, co-workers or acquaintances how to go about this task. People of color have enough on their plate without having to educate while people. Do your homework. Use Google. That’s what I did to find these resources for you.

I found several reading lists online which share books which may help folks learn about racism and dismantle it too. Charis Books & More, an independent feminist bookstore in Decatur , GA offers Understanding and Dismantling Racism: A Booklist for White Readers. Bustle (an online American women’s magazine) shares 17 Books On Race Every White Person Needs To Read, an annotated list by Sadie Trombetta and K.W. Colyard. The New York Times features An Antiracist Reading List by Ibram X. Kendi. Even BuzzFeed News got in the act with An Essential Reading Guide For Fighting Racism by Arianna Rebolini. Certainly you can find some resources from these lists.

If you feel like you are already an ally but want to do better, read Katie Anthony‘s essay “5 Racist Anti-Racism Responses ‘Good’ White Women Give to Viral Posts.” While this essay is (obviously) aimed at women, there’s no reason men can’t read it too and learn some things.

If you want to learn more about police brutality and how to work against it, start with the Teen Vogue (for real) article “11 Things You Can Do To Help Black Lives Matter End Police Violence” by Lincoln Anthony Blades. One resource mentioned in the above mentioned article is Campaign Zero, a group working towards ending police violence in America.

What I’ve giving you here are starting points. Start here. Keep reading. Keep studying. Keep learning.

Black Lives Matter.

National Olive Day

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According to the National Day Calendar website, June 1 is National Olive Day. The website says,

Divina founded National Olive Day in 2015 as a way to share the culinary history and traditions of this amazing food.

When I worked in California, I saw lots of olive groves when I came down from the mountain. I even saw a giant olive sitting in a parking lot.

That olive is the world’s largest, and it sits in Lindsay, California. According to the Weird California website, there are two giant olives in California. The one pictured above is a black olive. Weird California says,

It was originally outside the Lindsay Company’s plant in town, but when the plant unfortunately closed, it was moved outside what was, at the time, fittingly, the Olive Tree Inn…The Olive Tree Inn, however, is now a Super 8 Motel. It is not too far from the junctions of Highways 137 and 65. It is located in the motel parking lot, sitting proudly on a pedestal. It is made of concrete..

From the October 2013 article “Growing Olives – Information” by Richard Molinar UC Cooperative Extension Fresno, retired, I learned

California is the only state in the nation producing a commercially significant crop of olives. Approximately 70 to 80 percent of the ripe olives consumed in the United States come from California…The top olive-producing counties in California are Tulare, Tehama and Glenn counties.

A-ha! Guess what! Lindsay, CA is in Tulare County. It makes sense that Tulare County would be the home of the world’s largest olive.

Have you ever wondered if an olive is a fruit or a vegetable? An article by Caroline Picard for Good Housekeeping answers that questions. Olives are

… technically fruits.

The stones inside [olives] act as the seeds for the Olea europaea tree. In any botanist’s book that means they’re technically classified as fruits — specifically a kind called drupes, a.k.a. stone fruits. This category also includes sweeter produce like mango, dates, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and plums..

You may also be wondering if olives are a healthy food choice. According to the article “Olives 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits” by Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, RDN (Ice) on the Healthline website,

Olives are a good source of vitamin E, iron, copper, and calcium…Olives are particularly rich in antioxidants, including oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, oleanolic acid, and quercetin…that may contribute to a variety of benefits, such as lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

While olives do seem to be good for most people, you probably don’t want to eat them right off the tree. According to the Olive FAQ on the DeLallo website

While olives are edible straight from the tree, they are intensely bitter. Olives contain oleuropein and phenolic compounds, which must be removed or, at least, reduced to make the olive palatable…There are a number of ways that an olive can be “cured,” though it is more like a fermentation process…[Olives are] cured in one of four different ways: natural brine, lye, salt or air curing.

One type of olive I would not celebrate National Olive Day with are these Pearls Olives to Go! taco flavored ones. They were given to me by an acquaintance who’d gotten then at a food bank. He wouldn’t even try them. The Man wouldn’t try them either. I’ll try most any food once, so I opened the package and popped one of these olives into my mouth. How bad could they be?

The package contained some of the nastiest food stuff I have ever consumed. I ate one. It was so bad I ate another a little while later to make sure it really was as bad as I remembered. It was. I threw them away. I don’t throw away unspoiled food, but I couldn’t figure out how to disguise the unpleasantness of an olive saturated with fake taco flavor.

I hope you find some delicious olives to enjoy while you celebrate National Olive Day 2020!

I took the photos in this post.

A Complete Guide to Summer Camping (Guest Post)

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Today’s guest post if from Harsh Paul of the DeepBlueMountain website. In the post, he’ll tell you all about staying comfortable while camping in the summer.

Summer is everyone’s favorite time for camping. There’s not much chance of being uncomfortable due to cold weather, roads are clear, and nature is at her grandest. It’s no wonder that millions of people take to exploring the great outdoors in summer. 

National and state parks and private campgrounds are practically overflowing with visitors during this season. So while you’re out camping, here are a few suggestions that might come in handy. This guide will set you up with the essentials for camping in the summer and enjoying it to the fullest.

Essential Summer Camping Equipment

When you’re going camping, you must pay proper attention to gear. Though summer camping doesn’t usually require being overly thorough, you sure can add to your comfort. The favored form of camping for the modern camping enthusiast is car camping. 

In many cases, you might be able to take your car right to the campsite, or at least somewhere comfortably near the campground. This allows the luxury of carrying more gear and equipment than what a backpacker or hiker would take along. 

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

Since your car is doing the heavy lifting, you can be a bit generous with the things you take to the trip. Of course, there’s still the element of being sensible and not overdoing things. You don’t want a cartoonishly over-packed car. You may also want to enjoy a backpacking or hiking trip on the trails near the campground. Here are some essentials for your camping trip.

1) A Tent

It’s always worthwhile to get a quality, waterproof tent. You never want to be caught unprepared in rain – and this is where the quality aspect is important. Check the waterproofing of the tent and also see if the tent needs additional waterproofing and seam sealing. Depending on the specific tent, even new ones may need user intervention before they’re considered waterproof. 

Photo by adrian on Unsplash

The most important aspect, however, is ventilation. Summer weather tends to be hot and stuffy. Tents with poor ventilation are going to be hell to spend time in. Most summer or three-season tents come with a mesh body or at least a mesh roof. This helps ventilation, but there’s a limit on how much mesh you can expose before privacy becomes a concern. 

Tents that have vents, preferably at the floor and the roof are better choices. Make sure the windows and/or the door have no-see-um mesh that keeps bugs out.

2) Boots And Socks

There’s a good chance your camping trip will involve a fair amount of walking. Good shoes are especially important if hiking and/or backpacking are in the cards. You’ll need good boots that are strong, sturdy, and capable of handling rough terrain. Some heel support is necessary and waterproofing is very helpful.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Socks are also important. People often wear quality boots, but ignore their socks. If you’re going to spend substantial time on your feet, ditch the cotton socks. Socks with at least 30% wool blend are great. Performance socks made with synthetic materials and designed to offer foot support are better!

3) Emergency And Communication Devices

If you’re headed to a campground with a spotty or non-existent cellular network, think of other communication devices. A simple walkie-talkie can be sufficient for communication among your group. 

However, more sophisticated communication devices are necessary if you’re headed to a remote campground or trail. Depending on your budget, your options could be a satellite phone (expensive) or personal locator beacon (inexpensive).

4) Food And Utensils

Food, water, and utensils are an absolute necessity. If you’re carrying perishables, use them up within a day or two. Better yet, bring a quality cooler along so the perishables can last longer. Another benefit of a cooler is that it can keep your beverages cold for a long time.

Special eating utensils for camping may not be necessary if you’re car camping. However, backpackers and hikers should get specialized lightweight utensils for their travels. Don’t forget to carry along some snacks to munch during the day and to enjoy by the bonfire with the group in the evening.

5) Sleeping Bag And Other Necessities

Carry a sleeping bag and clothing that can keep you comfortable at night. Sure, we expect summer nights to be hot. However, a lot of campgrounds do see cool (and even cold) nights. Know about the campground you’ll be staying at and expected temperature so you can stay warm at night. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.

Other things you should have are a flashlight and a lantern with extra batteries. Necessary gear also includes sleeping pad, multi-tool, and duct tape. A small knife can be useful, but is optional.

Summer Camping Hacks For A Better Experience

1) Cooling Your Tent

There’s always a chance of getting uncomfortably hot during summer camping, so it’s useful to know how to cool your tent without electricity. A few simple ideas like selecting a shaded tent location and creatively using the tarp can help keep the tent more comfortable.

Many campgrounds don’t have electric access, so some careful planning can go a long way in ensuring a comfortable adventure without an electric fan or air conditioning.

2) Always Have A Change Of Clothes

Consider changing into different clothes at night. Clothes you wore during the day could be sweaty and slightly wet, even if they don’t feel that way. This can end up making you uncomfortably chilly during the night. 

Let your day clothes dry by removing them and keeping them inside your tent and shift into new clothes for the night. None of your belongings should be left unattended in a campground .

3) A Mosquito Mesh Is Your Friend

A tent with no-see-um mesh is necessary for comfort. With no-see-um mesh, you can keep tent windows or doors open whenever you wish, without the threat of getting invaded by bugs. However, some areas can be particularly prone to mosquitoes. In such cases, having a mosquito net or mesh will ensure a comfortable sleep.

4) Make Reservations

Modern campgrounds are busy and overflowing with visitors. Many popular locations are booked up to for six months in advance. If you’re planning a trip, make reservations. This stands true even if you’re going to a relatively quieter campground. A reservation ensures you won’t be far from home with no place to stay.

Summer is the most popular and common camping season. It’s ideal for exploring the outdoors, and this guide is intended to prepare you for the best experience. A few simple ideas and adjustments can make a world of a difference. 

Harsh Paul is an avid hiker, backpacker, and camper. When not exploring the great outdoors, he uses his time time completing home improvement projects. Currently, he’s self-isolating for a better safety and health approach.

We Really Dodged a Bullet That Time

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Jerico does not like gunshots or other loud noises.

Content warning: guns, gunshots, bullet, danger, gun danger, potential for death.

I heard the gunshots, but I didn’t pay much attention to them until Jerico the dog tried to hide from them. He’s scared of gunshots (and most other loud noises) and he tried to get away from these in the corner where wires connect solar components. I didn’t want him damaging the wires, so I coaxed Jerico out of the corner and into the bed with me. I told him everything would be fine.

Gunshots are not unheard of where we live, but they are certainly not a daily occurrence. Occasionally we hear someone pop off a few rounds, but we chalk it up to target practice and go on with our lives. We live in the Wild West. Tumbleweeds roll down the dirt roads (for real) and sometimes guns are shot.

On this particular day, the shots went on and on. They were coming fast, but we could tell they weren’t close, so we went on with our lives that Friday afternoon.

I was lying in bed, messing around on my phone. We’d gone a little hike earlier in the day, and the heat and the sun had worn me out. I’d been lying in bed, messing around on my phone since about 3:30. I’d told myself I’d get out of bed at 4 o’clock and start dinner. Four o’clock came and went, and I was still lying in bed, messing around on my phone.

(Have you ever read the Dear Prudence advice column by Danny M. Lavery on Slate? I thoroughly enjoy reading that column; it’s what I was reading that Friday afternoon instead of cooking dinner.)

The Man was lying in bed too, watching television. He got out of bed and went into the kitchen. He stood at the sink facing the long window that runs across most of the width of our little trailer. I’m not sure what he was doing there in front of the window. Maybe he washed his hands. Maybe he prepared and ate a peanut butter sandwich. When he completed his task, he walked back to the bedroom in the back of the trailer and flopped down onto the bed. I’d heard shots the entire time he stood in front of the window, but I didn’t think the shots were close enough to worry about.

I’ll get up in a few minutes, I told myself. I’ll just finish reading the most recent column, I told myself, then I’ll get out of the bed and cook dinner.

Suddenly I heard a loud thunk! Something had hit the trailer!

Get on the floor! The Man yelled. Get on the floor!

I jumped off the bed and crouched between the exterior wall and the platform that lifts our mattress a few feet off the floor and provides under-bed storage for our three solar batteries. Jerico followed me out of the bed, and I held onto him so he wouldn’t leave the bedroom to meet The Man where he was lying on the floor between the bathroom and the hallway cupboard.

The Man grabbed the first phone he saw (mine) and dialed 911.

Some manic is shooting at my house! I heard him say to the emergency dispatcher who took his call. My window is busted out!

This is our kitchen window after the bullet went through it. Shattered. Busted. Scary.

When I’m lying in bed, my view of the kitchen and the kitchen window is mostly blocked by the wall between the bedroom and bathroom. While I’d heard the thunk of the bullet hitting the front window, I couldn’t see that the glass had been shattered from the impact. From The Man’s side of the bed, he had a clear view of the window and the sink below it. He’d seen the shattered glass before he jumped out of bed and threw himself onto the floor.

I heard The Man tell the 911 dispatcher that the police would never be able to find our place. He said we would meet the officer on the main road.

Com on, come on, The Man said to me once he hung up with the emergency dispatcher. We have to get out of here, he said as we fumbled around for our shoes. I managed to slip my feet into my grey Crocs; The Man ended up in his bedroom slippers.

We hopped into the truck, not knowing if another bullet was headed our way. The Man drove us to the main road, expecting to see a police officer at any moment.

Immediately after fastening my seat belt, I texted our nearest neighbor.

Someone shot out our front window, the text said. I sent the message at exactly 4:30pm.

The next event of note was the call from the deputy sheriff who had been dispatched to handle our emergency. He called to say he wouldn’t be able to respond to our situation for some time. He said we should give him directions to our house, then go home and wait for him there. It was as if he didn’t realize that someone had shot a bullet through our window and into our home. Maybe gunshots and bullets weren’t a big deal to him, but they certainly were important to us that afternoon.

While sitting in the passenger seat of our moving truck, I tried to wrap my head around what had just happened. I had many questions and no answers. Who had shot the gun? Where had the shooter been standing when the shot was fired? Was there a sniper on the loose? Had someone just killed his whole family and the bullet through our window was a byproduct of a massacre? Had the shot that sent a bullet through our window been made on purpose or by accident? Had a gun been fired at our window because the shooter thought our trailer was abandoned?

After calling the 911 dispatcher twice more and making known his displeasure with the runaround the deputy sheriff was giving us, The Man pulled the truck off the road. Neither of us knew what to do.

After a few minutes of sitting on the side of the road, we saw a sheriff’s department truck heading in our direction. The Man laid on the horn and the truck pulled over. The Man whipped our truck around and pulled up behind the deputy, but left quite a bit of distance between the two vehicles.

I really don’t want to see you get shot, I told The Man, so he got out of the truck with his hands high in the air. I kept my hands where the deputy could see them too.

The deputy was a woman, but she looked more like a girl. She probably wasn’t older than 25, but she looked about 15 years old. The Man talked to her outside, so I couldn’t hear their conversation.

Another sheriff’s department truck pulled up behind our vehicle. A short man walked over to where The Man and the female deputy were talking. I couldn’t hear what the new arrival said either, but The Man was back in the driver’s seat shortly. The deputies were going to follow us home.

We drove down the long dirt road with the deputy sheriffs behind us.

When we arrived at our property, we showed the deputies the shattered glass of the kitchen widow at the front of our trailer. When The Man and the male officer looked for the bullet on the floor inside, they found a small hole in the platform supporting our mattress. They then went outside and found the exit hole in the back wall of the trailer.

I think it was the female deputy who found the bullet. It was lodged in a wooden block supporting a small propane tank. Usually we had a bigger, taller propane tank sitting right there providing fuel for our refrigerator and stove and furnace and water heater, but when the large tank was empty, The Man put the small tank in its place. If the large tank had been sitting there, the bullet would have struck it instead of a block of wood. We imaged there would have been a large explosion and a fire.

The bullet that went through our trailer lodged in this block of wood. You can see the small propane tank sitting on top of the wooden block.

(We are probably wrong about the explosion and fire of our imaginations. According to the Propane 101 website,

…it would be hard to say that a propane tank will explode if it were hit by an airplane or bullet.

Yes, you can watch YouTube videos of people shooting propane tanks and ending up with fireballs, but the ones I’ve seen have involved a source of flame like a garden torch or road flares. In retrospect, without some additional fire source, I don’t think a propane tank would typically burst into flames upon being shot.)

After taking photos of our shattered window and getting our names, driver license numbers, etc, the cops took the bullet and set off to do some further investigation.

About that time, I received a text from our neighbor They had been out on a hike and only received my text about the shooting when they returned home. She said her husband JayJay was on his way over to our place.

Our neighbors are good people. They’re in our age group, funny and pleasant to talk with. Whenever they visit, they leave while I’m wishing they’d stay longer. They’ve come over for dinner, and JayJay has helped The Man with several repairs on our truck. Sometimes when we’re out for a walk, The Man and I stop in at their place, and sometimes they stop at our place to say hello. Of course, COVID-19 and the required physical distancing precautions have put a damper on our in-person friendship. However, a bullet through our window seemed to take precedence over the virus, and JayJay came right over.

Based on where the bullet entered our trailer, it seemed like there were only a few places from which it could have been shot. The most likely location, in JayJay’s opinion, was a place that seemed impossibly far to me. It was about half a mile away, but JayJay said the direction of the wind and the size of the gun (a .308) made it entirely possible for the bullet to travel that far.

JayJay asked The Man if he wanted to go talk to the people at the house where he thought the bullet had come from. I understood if The Man was a little hesitant. Those people had guns and (obviously) bullets. JayJay said he’d go with The Man, and The Man agreed. I stayed home with Jerico.

The Man and JayJay found the place from which the bullet that went through our window had been fired. The deputies had been there earlier. The cops asked the young men at the house if they’d been shooting. The young men told the cops they’d been shooting a .22; of course, the bullet that struck our trailer was from a .308, so the cops left without arresting anyone.

When The Man told the young men that a bullet from a .308 had shattered our window and traveled through our entire trailer, they all grew contrite. The fellow whose property they were on began weeping and embraced The Man.

Most of the young men at the house worked on a crew together. They somehow knew our neighbor and had come out to his place for a Friday night of fun. They had been partying for a while, and their party consisted of drinking whisky, eating barbecue, and shooting guns, among other things. The property owner told the visitors they could shoot the .22 but to leave the .308 alone. Of course, as soon as he walked away from the party, the visitors fired the .308. They told The Man and JayJay they’d heard the bullet ricochet, but the hadn’t been aiming at our trailer and they certainly hadn’t meant to hit anything.

The property owner offered to pay for our window. I don’t know it that’s actually going to happen, but I do appreciate the sentiment and the $20 bill he insisted The Man take. It’s difficult for me to stay mad at someone who is truly sorry for making a mistake. Of course, if The Man or I or (Heaven forbid!) Jerico had been injured or killed, forgiveness might have been a little more difficult for them to come by.

The next morning, I moved in front of the shattered kitchen window and calculated where I might have been standing had I been cooking dinner when the bullet came in. Had I been stirring vegetables cooking on the stove, I would have been ok, even with a bullet moving through the house. Had I been doing something in front of the left sink, my right arm would have probably been hit, grazed at best. If I had been standing at the right sink, I would have been hit between my breasts and my belly button. If I had been standing in front of the right sink, I might not be telling you this story today.

The Man measured the bullet’s path. If it had come straight through the trailer with no downward movement, it would have hit him where he was lying in the bed.

This is what our shattered window looked like from the outside.

Luckily that bullet had neither of our names on it. Luckily, neither of us was hurt. Luckily, no one’s life was ruined because some young men allowed alcohol to ruin their judgement.

No, I’m not scared to live where I do. A stray bullet could go through a window in Dallas or Detroit, Phoenix or Fargo, New Orleans or Nashville. For real, it could happen anywhere. Surely, a bullet through our window is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

On Saturday morning, we removed all the shattered glass from the kitchen window and covered the big window hole with cardboard. Now we’ll add “kitchen window” to the list of all the things we’ll eventually need to buy. Still, a kitchen window is a small price to pay. That bullet could have taken a life instead of a bit of glass.

I’m glad to have lived to see another day. I guess you could say Dear Prudence and procrastination saved may life.

The Jolly Green Giant

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I don’t think we knew the Jolly Green Giant was there. We certainly didn’t go to Blue Earth, Minnesota to see the Jolly Green Giant. I think we went to Blue Earth, MN for the free camping.

According to Wikipedia,

Blue Earth is a city in Faribault County, Minnesota, at the confluence of the east and west branches of the Blue Earth River. The population was 3,353 at the 2010 census[5] Interstate Highway 90 is centered on Blue Earth, as the east and west construction teams met here in 1978. As a tribute, there is a golden stripe of concrete on the interstate near Blue Earth.

At the time, there was also free camping at the Faribault County Fairgrounds in Blue Earth. It was a good deal. There was potable water on site. There were restrooms on site too, with flush toilets and hot showers. There were also a limited number of campsites with electrical hookups. All of these amenities were put to use by participants of the county fair and other big events, but when nothing was happening at the Fairgrounds, the county said, Come on over and camp for free!

Many small communities throughout the Midwest offer free camping in town or county parks, or at least they did a decade ago. I guess the town and county leaders figured they had more to gain than to lose. People staying in a small town would probably buy some supplies from the local businesses. Food, ice, propane, maybe gas for the rig would all add up to a tidy bundle of money for the stores in a town. If campers stuck around for a few days or a week, they might even shop more than once. Why not let them stay on land that would otherwise be empty?

We did our part for the economy of Blue Earth, Minnesota at the Wal-Mart (which I read somewhere online isn’t a Wal-Mart any more). I don’t remember what we bought, but I’m pretty sure ice was on the list. It was summer after all, and even though we’d thought it would be cool in the northern state of Minnesota, the air was hot and humid.

At the time, we typically slept in our van in Wal-Mart parking lots. I remember the Wal-Mart in Blue Earth had signs in the parking lot basically saying, You can’t park here overnight. Go park for free at the fairgrounds right over there!

After we procured our supplies, I drove the van over to the Faribault County Fairgrounds. I believe that’s when we saw the Jolly Green Giant statue towering above everything else.

He’s life-size, I marveled.

Jolly Green Giant (Blue Earth, MN) I had forgotten how short his toga is.

I’m not sure a mythical creature who’s never been truly alive can actually be life-size, but according to Roadside America, he’s

55.5 feet tall [about five stories]…[and] [h]is six-foot-long feet fill size 78 shoes.

The Roadside America post also gives the history of how the Green Giant ended up in blue Earth.

The Giant has stood in Blue Earth since 1979 due to the efforts of radio station owner Paul Hedberg…The entire project was funded by Blue Earth businesses, with Hedberg himself kicking in the largest amount…Creative Displays, fiberglass statue manufacturing forerunner of F.A.S.T. Corp., built the Giant in the summer of 1978…on July 6, 1979, the Jolly Green Giant was bolted to his eight-foot-high base, complete with a staircase so that visitors could pose for snapshots between his legs.

After finding a place to park in the sparsely populated camping area at the Fairgrounds and checking out the facilities (Look Pa! a gen-u-ine flush toilet!), we walked over to visit the Jolly Green Giant.

There was a Jolly Green Giant museum near the statue, but it was closed for the day. The Jolly Green Giant himself was always available to receive visitors and pose for photos, however, and I stared up at him in wonder. Did I mention that the statue is really tall?

As the Roadside America article mentioned, there are steps up to the platform the Green Giant stands on. Visitors can climb the stairs and stand between the Giant’s big feet. We each took our turn climbing up for a photo opp with the Giant. At the time, I hardly ever brought out my camera to document our activities, but I was so impressed with the Giant that I dug out my camera that day and photographed the big guy in all his green glory.

Outside the museum there were wooden cutouts of Little Green Sprout and farmers with a sort of lust for vegetables painted all over their faces. I took some photos of those folks too.

According to the Little Green Sprout’s Organics webpage,

Since 1972, Little Green Sprout has been an enthusiastic apprentice to the Green Giant. Little Green Sprout is an adventurous eater who loves to try new things and is always working on nurturing his healthy eating habits.

You can also view a timeline of Sprout’s history on the aforementioned webpage.

Little Green Sprout (Blue Earth, MN)

After looking around and taking some photos, we wandered back to our campsite and had dinner. I have no recollection of what was on the menu, but I doubt we ate any Green Giant vegetables

I’d hoped to hang around in Blue Earth for a few days. Camping was free, after all. (I think people were invited to camp at the Fairgrounds at no cost for two or three nights; after that campers were asked to pay a few bucks for each additional night they stayed.) Also, who could argue with free flush toilets and free hot showers? I really did want to visit the Jolly Green Giant Museum, and it would have been fun to check out what else Blue Earth had going on.

Alas, we packed up the next afternoon and headed out. We never stayed in one place for very long in those days. We were constantly on the move then, constantly looking for something we never did find.

If you want to visit the Jolly Green Giant, the aformentioned Roadside America article offers great directions.

If you are interested in camping at the Faribault County Fairgrounds, the City of Blue Earth website gives the following information:

The campground has 4 tent sites and 9 electrical sites with full hookups. There is a fee of $20.00 per night for the electrical sites and $10.00 per night for the tent sites. The City allows a maximum of five consecutive nights of camping at the campground unless prior arrangements have been made. There is a $5.00 charge for waste tank dumping. A payment box is located at the site for your convenience.

If you have any questions about camping at the Fairgrounds, you can Contact the Blue Earth City Hall at (507) 526-7336.

I took the photos in this post.

Southern Colorado Lake

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On trips to Colorado, I’ve seen a lake on Highway 159 between Costilla, NM and San Luis, CO. There are no signs at the entrances on Highway 159 naming the lake, but from my research on Google Maps, it appears to be Sanchez Stabilizing Reservoir. The area around the reservoir is Sanchez Stabilization Park; it’s also a Colorado State Wildlife Area.

According to Wikipedia,

Sanchez Reservoir lies in far south-central Colorado, west of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Costilla County. Its inflows include Ventero Creek and the Sanchez Canal, a diversion canal that takes water from Culebra Creek and two other creeks…The reservoir’s earthen dam was built in 1912.

I took this photo of Sanchez Stabilizing Reservoir in March of 2020.

Brown signs labeled “Recreation Area” on either side of the highway are the only indication that the lake is on public land and not private property.

There are no signs about camping, nothing to say camping is either allowed or prohibited in the area. I’ve been of the mind that if there’s no sign explicitly prohibiting camping or overnight parking, then it must be allowed. (I find this way of thinking particularly acceptable in the U. S. Southwest. Results may vary in other areas.)

I took this photo of Sanchez Stabilizing Reservoir in the spring of 2017, probably in May.

According to the Colorado Birding Trail website, I was right about camping at Sanchez Stabilization Park. That website says primitive camping is allowed in the Park.

I’ve seen people seemingly camping at Sanchez Stabilization Park in truck campers and small-to-medium pull-behind campers. I’ve typically seen the area more crowded in the summer, but have noticed campers there in all seasons.

The aforementioned birding website also says,

Sanchez Reservoir is among the largest in the San Luis Valley, as well as among the most productive. The southern end can be frustrating to scan; most of the birds are usually on the north end.

The folks at the Colorado Birding Trail say the Reservoir is owned by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and is open all year. The recreation area does not provide accommodations to folks with disabilities, but for birders, some viewing is possible from one’s vehicle.

According to Uncover Colorado

Colorado has 350 State Wildlife Areas, covering more than 684,000 acres. With a valid fishing or hunting license you can access the properties for recreation, including hunting, fishing, hiking and wildlife observation.

I take that to mean that in order to camp at Sanchez Stabilization Park, you need a valid Colorado fishing or hunting license. However, I’ve never seen any notice of such a requirement on site.

According to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Website, a Colorado annual fishing license for a nonresident over the age of 16 costs $97.97. A one-day Colorado fishing license for a nonresident older than 16 runs $16.94, while a five-day Colorado fishing license for a nonresident over 16 costs $32.14. If you’re a Colorado resident over the age of 16, an annual fishing license costs $35.17. A one-day fishing license for Colorado residents over 16 costs $13.90. Colorado Parks and Wildlife says you can purchase a fishing license in person at hundreds of retailers​ or at a CPW location. You can buy a license by phone by calling toll free 1-800-244-5613​​, or you can buy a fishing license online​.

If you’d rather pay for a hunting license, a nonresident small game one-day license costs $16.75 and an annual nonresident small game license will set you back $82.78. For Colorado residents, a small game one-day license costs $13.90 and an annual small game license runs $30.11. Colorado Parks and Wildlife says you can buy a hunting license in person at hundreds of retailers​ or at a CPW location.  You can buy a license by phone by calling toll free 1-800-244-5613​​, or you can ​​​buy a license online​.

As I was researching this post, I found some references to a Wildlife or Habitat Stamp. At first it seemed that a camper only needed a Wildlife/Habitat Stamp in order to spend time in a Colorado State Wildlife Area such as Sanchez Stabilization Park. However, in a May 5, 2020 Hiking Bob column by Bob Falcone in the Colorado Springs Indy, I learned

…in an effort to make sure everyone pays equally to use SWAs, CPW will be requiring all users to purchase a hunting or fishing license, effective July 1 [2020].

Hiking Bob goes on to say

The least expensive option for Colorado residents would be to purchase a single day fishing license, for $13.90 per day, and the required Habitat Stamp for $10.13 per year. A yearly fishing license can be purchased for $35.17, however senior citizens (over age 65) can get the annual license for $9.85 and are also exempt from the Habitat Stamp requirement.

There are two entrances to Sanchez Stabilization Park from Highway 159. You can take each entrance to several parts of the recreation area. The dirt road leads to the pit toilet restroom at the front of the area, to the tree-lined dirt road where the picnic tables sit in the middle of the recreation area, or to a series of dirt roads that go around the lake.

Pit toilet restroom at Sanchez Stabilization Park near Highway 159. The entrance to the toilet is on the other side.

When I’ve looked in at the pit toilet restroom on a couple of occasions, I’ve always found it fairly clean. Someone is sweeping out the building housing the toilet. There’s usually graffiti on the walls, which is typical in a building that’s probably not attended daily. I must admit, I’ve never lifted the toilet’s lid to find out if anyone is scrubbing down the risers or wiping the seat and lid. While I have seen toilet paper in the restroom, I suggest travelers stay prepared by carrying their own stash of TP.

If the toilet ever gets a thorough scrubbing, whoever does the cleaning must truck in water or haul some from the lake, because there’s no faucet or spigot on site. Again, I suggest preparation if you plan to spend time Sanchez Stabilization Park. Plan to carry in your own water for drinking and washing. I don’t know what might be running off into the lake water, so I don’t know if it’s suitable for washing dishes or the human body. I certainly would not drink it.

While there are no signs saying not to eat fish caught in the Reservoir, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife webpage about Sanchez Reservoir SWA says

Anglers should take note of [the] warning issued by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment regarding mercury levels in fish caught in this reservoir.

Another view of Sanchez Reservoir State Wildlife Area. Photo taken March 18, 2020.

(When I clicked on the link in the above quote on the website, I was taken to an empty link, so I don’t know exactly what the warning says. You can get more information about the Health Department warning in particular or Sanchez Reservoir in general by calling the area Colorado Parks and Wildlife office in Monte Vista at (719) 587-6900.)

These picnic tables at Sanchez Stabilization Park are built to last and resist theft. The benches don’t look comfortable, however.

There are about a half dozen picnic tables in the part of the recreation area between the restroom and the lake. There are stone fire rings near some of the picnic tables,and I’ve never seen signs prohibiting campfires. If you decide to build a fire in this recreation area (or anywhere!), make sure there is no fire ban in effect and please follow Smokey Bear’s Campfire Safety Rules.

There is a line of trees between the picnic tables and the dirt road running behind the picnic area. The trees provide a little shade. Whenever I’ve stopped at Sanchez SWA, I’ve always parked near one of the trees and escaped the sun.

I have seen people camped on the beach next to the lake. After reviewing my photos of the lake, I see that the only trees in the area are the ones near the picnic tables. People camping on the beach don’t have the benefit of the shade trees provide. I bet it gets hot out on that beach in the summer.

This photo was taken from the opposite side of Sanchez Reservoir and shows the line of trees near the picnic tables. I believe this photos was taken in September 2019.

I’m not sure how soft or wet or loose the sand on the beach is. I would be very careful about driving a car on the sand, much less a motorhome. If I were going to pull a rig onto the sand, I would be careful about that too. Before I drove my rig out there, I would walk over the area that sparked my interest and survey the conditions in order to determine if my rig could handle the terrain.

I usually park in the shade of these trees.

Since I haven’t spent a lot of time at Sanchez Stabilization Park and haven’t spent the night there, I’m not sure if bugs are bad out there. They may be worse in the summer (as bugs tend to be). Again, I suggest visitors arrive prepared to keep bugs away.

The lack of signs also mean there’s no indication of how long one is allowed to stay at the reservoir. I looked online, but could find no rules on camping limits at State Wildlife Areas. The upper limit of staying on public land is usually 14 days, so I wouldn’t plan to stay for more than two weeks at Sanchez Stabilization Park.

I don’t know if I would buy a fishing license and Habitat Stamp for the sole purpose of camping at this reservoir. If I liked to fish and didn’t mind throwing back what I caught, it might be nice to spend a week or two here fishing a little and enjoying the peace and quiet.

There’s another way to access Sanchez Reservoir. The Colorado Birding Trail website gives the following directions:

From the intersection of CO 159 and CO 142 in San Luis, head east on the continuation of CO 142 (CR P.6) about three miles to CR 21 and turn right (south). From here it is about five miles south to the SWA.

I took all the photos in this post.

The Old Vehicles of San Luis, Colorado

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While I’m on a San Luis, Colorado kick, I want to share with you one more aspect of the town that I enjoy. I’ve encountered many old vehicles in the oldest town in Colorado. I would not call myself a car (or truck ) aficionado, but I do feel a certain pleasure in my heart and soul when I see a vintage vehicle, especially if the paint is peeling and rust is moving in for the takeover. Add in an old license plate, and I’m in nostalgia heaven, even if the vehicle is from a time before I was born.

There’s a tow yard near a parking lot just off the main drag in San Luis. I’ve never seen another human in that tow yard, but it is a source of lots of great old vehicles. The first one that caught my eye was this fantastic truck and camper combo.

Can you imagine the adventures this duo has been on? It makes me think of the epic road trip John Steinbeck took with his standard poodle pal and chronicled in his book Travels with Charley: In Search of America. If I had piles of money, I would buy the truck and camper, have them both refurbished, and take them out on some adventures of my own. Here are some of the details from the truck and camper.

Another vehicle I like looking at is this old tow truck. I wonder if this truck towed any of the other vehicles into the yard.

Old tow truck. You can see the truck and camper combo in the background on the left.

Here are some photos showing details of the tow truck. The door is my favorite detail.

Here are a couple of other old vehicles I saw in and around the tow yard. I love the funky paint job on that Ford tailgate.

The last time I visited San Luis, I took a turn down a side street and found a cool yard. Don’t worry; I didn’t trespass. I just peeked through the fence.

When I looked through the spokes of the wheel mounted to the gate, I saw the car in the photo below. I don’t know the make and model. Any ideas?

Then I walked over a few feet and looked through the slats in the fence and saw the car in the photo below.

You can see the Sierras y Colores mural in the background. That mural was painted by Carlos Sandoval.

It looks like something Starsky or Hutch would have driven in the early 70s. Any idea of its make and model?

This concludes our tour of San Luis’ vintage vehicles. I took all the photos in this post. If you like these photos and would like to see more that I took, please follow Rubber Tramp Artist on Instagram.

San Luis, Colorado

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I’d been to and through San Luis, CO a few times, but I’d never before stopped the vehicle and walked around taking photos. This time was different. This time I stopped, even though I was tired and hungry. This time I walked up and down the main drag (Main Street/ Highway 159) and took some photos. Today I’ll share my mini adventure with you.

According to Wikipedia,

The Town of San Luis is a statutory town that is the county seat and the most populous town of Costilla County, Colorado, United States…[7]The population was 629 at the 2010 census.[8]

The big claim to fame of San Luis is that it’s the oldest town in Colorado. This fact is proclaimed right on the town’s welcome signs.

The San Luis town website has a section about the town’s history. The website explains,

San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado, was established on April 5, 1851…Hispanic settlers from the Taos Valley established several small villages along the Rio Culebra in the San Luis Valley and officially took possession of this portion of the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant on April 5, 1851. Settlers built a church in the central village of La Plaza Medio and dedicated it on the Feast of Saint Louis, June 21, 1851.The village was renamed San Luis de la Culebra in honor of its patron saint. San Luis remained part of the Territory of New Mexico until 1861 when the Territory of Colorado was established. Today, San Luis is the oldest continuously inhabited town in the state of Colorado.

San Luis is home to the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross. The Catholic Travel Guide website says the Shrine

is located on a mesa in the center of San Luis. Dedicated in 1990, the Shrine was built as an act of faith and love for the parishioners of the Sangre de Cristo Parish. It is a place of prayer and solace open to members of all faiths and people of good will.

That’s the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross on top of the mesa. I took the photo from the south side of San Luis.

I did not visit the Shrine on the day I stopped in San Luis to take photos. I do hope to visit the Shrine someday. I’m sure such a visit would lead to bloggable moments, and I’d certainly share my experience there with you.

For such a small town, San Luis has a lot of murals. Many of the buildings on the main street have murals painted on their sides. I parked next to a mural called Mexica Tiahui. (I found out when researching this post that the building I parked next to houses San Luis’ town hall/court/police station/visitor center.)

According to the Waymarking.com listing for this piece of art, the mural was completed in 2018 and was

[d]esigned and painted by local students…and explores the students reclaiming their indigenous heritage.

The aforementioned website goes on to say,

Mexica Tiahui! I’ve always known the spirited sentiment to mean “Mexican (Indigenous) Moving/Go Forward!” It is used as a positive exclamation mostly by Chicanah (Chican@) people in the United States who are using “Mexica” as an identity point in reclaiming their Indigenous self. [There’s quite about more information about the term “Mexica Tiahui!” is the long description on the Waymarking.com page.]

This large mural features the students of San Luis (who were the designers and artists), Spanish explorers/conquerors, the Catholic Church, and Aztec monuments and peoples.

Waymarking.com also lists the mural Sierras y Colores (“mountain range and colors”) by Carlos Sandoval. The website says,

This mural on the side of the Full Circle building explores the history and cultures of the San Luis valley. A woman is carrying a basket of vegetables grown in the area, early settlers are remembered, The Spanish Conquistadors and Christianity (in the form of Christ and Catholicism), Ute Indian on a pony, the San Luis People’s Ditch (early community irrigation), a ranch hand branding a cow, and a resident with a dead deer on the back of the saddle.

Another mural I encountered was on the deserted Custom Cycles shop. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any information about the artist.

There were other murals in San Luis I couldn’t find any information about online.

I also liked looking at the old buildings lining Main Street in San Luis, like the one housing the R&R Market.

According to the Colorado Preservation, Inc. webpage about the R&R Market, it

is the oldest continuously operated business in the State of Colorado, dating from its establishment in 1857 in the town of San Luis by Costilla County pioneer Dario Gallegos. The building was partially rebuilt after fires in 1895 and 1947…

The building housing R&R Market was originally constructed of adobe bricks and has subsequently been modified with a combination of concrete block, plaster and stucco construction. The ground floor is the market and the upstairs includes rental units which were once part of a hotel. The original mercantile business was opened…in May, 1857, in a building 20 feet wide by 40 feet long, made of 25-inch adobe walls, with a foundation of rock with mud mortar. Today the building is a beautiful two-story log and stucco building in the Territorial Adobe style…

On the day in March 2020 I visited San Luis, I really wanted to stop in at the R&R Market to look for postcards, but the threat of COVID-19 kept me out. I hope one day I can go into the market and find postcards celebrating San Luis’ oldest town status.

My favorite part of this building is those script letters! I could find nothing online about this building or the company it housed.

In addition to the town’s murals and old buildings, I enjoyed looking at the old signs in San Luis.

Finally, I liked the old payphones still standing in San Luis.

There’s a cultural center I didn’t visit because of the threat of COVID-19. Maybe next time, when I go to see the Shrine. I’ll try to pick up some postcards then too. Hopefully I can go back before too long.

I took the photos in this post.

10 Essential Items For Kids On A Road Trip (Guest Post)

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While now is not really the time to take a recreational road trip with or without children, we can dream, plan, and scheme, right? If you will be traveling with children sometime in the future, today’s guest post from Cristin Howard of the Smart Parent Advice website will help you decide what items to pack to keep the little ones happy on the road. When the kids are happy, the parents are happy, and this blog post will help keep the entire family feeling good.

Planning a family road trip can be intimidating. As you prepare for your trip, your head will be swirling with packing suitcases and wondering how to keep your kids happy and comfortable for hours upon hours.

Let us help you get organized by assisting with your packing lists! Here are ten items to include in your arsenal to help make your road trip a pleasant experience for the whole family. 

Window Shade

One of the most essential road trip items for our family are window shades. Nothing makes children more upset than having the sun shining directly into their faces. Putting a shade on their window helps to dim the harsh rays of the sun while still allowing the sunlight to brighten up the car. 

Rest Stop Entertainment

Pack a drawstring bag with simple outdoor items, such as frisbees, bubbles, and a soccer ball. Any time you need to pull over to use the bathroom, encourage the kids to run around in the grass for ten minutes. This will allow them to use up some of their pent up energy.

Snacks

The day before you leave on your trip, pre-portion the snacks you want your kids to eat during the ride. This will save you from having to dig around in bags and pour and potentially spill goldfish all over your van floor. 

You can use plastic food storage containers for easily smashed snacks such as crackers or soft cookies. Plastic bags are a great choice for pretzels, veggies cut in thin strips, or their favorite dry cereal to munch on. 

Hydration

Make sure each child has a sippy cup within reach and that you encourage your child to drink regularly. You may be risking more bathroom breaks, but there is nothing worse than starting a family vacation with a constipated toddler. Staying hydrated will help their bodies to stay working efficiently despite the long hours of sitting. 

Comfort Items

I highly recommend having your child’s favorite stuffed animal and blanket handy so that when they start to whine and become uncomfortable, you can hand them their comfort items and offer to sing to them. Let them know that it’s okay to miss their beds and you’ll be there to keep them safe.

Books

While your little one isn’t likely to know how to read much yet, books can still offer hours of entertainment while they’re sitting in a car seat. In a sturdy tote bag, pack picture books for your child to look through as well as activity books.  

Some examples of activity books geared for young toddlers are: lift the flap books or any book with buttons to press (as long as they aren’t exceptionally loud for the driver). For kids preschool or kindergarten age, some great choices would be “spot the difference” or “look and find” books. 

Toys

Having a large bag full of entertaining toys is a must when traveling with a crew of little ones. I have found great success with letting my young kids offer ideas of what to pack so they can start to gain excitement for their road trip activities!

Here are a few ideas of what to include in your travel toy bag: magna doodles, puzzles, reusable sticker books, magnetic playsets, interactive steering wheels, or a variety of their favorite cars and realistic plastic animals so they can engage their imaginations.  

Gallon-Sized Zip-top Bags

You may be wondering why gallon-sized zip-top bags are a necessity on road trips. Many kids end up feeling car sick during their travels. When you suspect they are starting to feel unwell, assist them in holding an open zip-top bag and let them use it to throw up into. You can then toss the bag away at the next gas station. 

Media

If your vehicle has a built-in DVD player, you are set up for success. Kids love to watch their favorite shows, and it will make the time pass quickly for them.

If your car does not have a DVD player, you don’t need to worry. Grab some CDs full of well-known kids’ songs, and your family can sing your hearts out as the miles pass by. 

Podcasts are another great option for your kids. Sesame Street, Paw Patrol, and Story Time are entertaining, age-appropriate podcasts for your kids to listen to.

Backpack

Even though you will have bags full of car entertainment for the kids, it will make your life easier if each child also has their own toddler-sized backpack within reach. 

In the front compartment have tissues and napkins so they can help clean up their messes as they snack in the car.

In the large back section, have them choose a favorite book, a special toy, and their most loved stuffed animal. Having these items close by will allow them to have some independence during the road trip.

Don’t Stress The Little Things

Your family has been looking forward to this well-needed vacation. Don’t let the stress of having children in the car keep you from enjoying the road trip. Keep them fed, entertained, and above all, love on them as best as you can in those cramped quarters.

Cristin Howard runs Smart Parent Advice, a site that provides parenting advice for moms and dads. Cristin writes about all of the different ups and downs of parenting, provides solutions to common challenges, and reviews products that parents need to purchase for babies and toddlers.

Fort Garland, Colorado

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In the days immediately before we began our strict social distancing in March 2020, The Man got a job in southern Colorado. He was hired as a part of a very small crew remodeling a house. I drove him out there, and when the work week was over, the boss drove him all the way home. When he wasn’t working, he got to stay in a small camper on the property.

I had been so busy helping The Man get ready for his time away from home, I forgot to pack a snack for myself. By the time I got to Fort Garland, it was lunchtime and I was hungry, so I pulled into one of the town’s gas stations.

According to Wikipedia,

Fort Garland is a census-designated place (CDP) in Costilla County, Colorado, United States. The population was 433 at the 2010 census.[3][4]

The town is called Fort Garland because there’s actually a fort there! The Museums of the San Luis Valley website offers some information about the fort.

Established in 1858 in southern Colorado, Fort Garland, with its garrison of over 100 men, served to protect the earliest settlers in the San Luis Valley…Fort Garland was built after Fort Massachusetts proved vulnerable.  The Capote band of Utes occupied the southern end of the valley at the time of the first contact. 

(If you want to know more about the history of the fort, read “The Story of Fort Garland: 1858 – 1883.”)

The actual fort in Fort Garland is now a history museum. The aforementioned Museums of the San Luis Valley website says,

…you are invited to walk the parade ground of the fort and tour the adobe buildings, which feature a re-creation of the commandant’s quarters during Kit Carson’s time.  Rich in military history, Fort Garland also highlights the folk art and culture of the Hispanic community in southern Colorado. 

Admission to the Fort Garland Museum is $5 for adults, $4.50 for people 65 years old and older, $3.50 for youth 6 to 16, and FREE for anyone under the age of 6. Admission is also FREE to History Colorado members.

The Fort Garland Museum’s regular hours of operation are as follows:

March 1st – October 31st, 9:00 – 5:00pm daily 
November 1st – December 31st, 10:00-4:00 Wednesday – Saturday
January 1st – February 28th – CLOSED

If you want to call the museum ahead of time to make sure it is open before you head out that way, the phone number is 719-379-3512.

I did not visit the Fort Garland museum the day I passed through the area. For one thing, I did not really want to lay down $5 to look at military history, although I probably would have enjoyed learning about the “folk art and culture of the Hispanic community in southern Colorado.” Secondly, I was pretty tired of driving and really wanted to get home to rest. Third, Jerico the dog was with me, and I didn’t think it was fair to leave him in the truck while I took my good, sweet time enjoying a museum. Finally, although I (obviously) wasn’t totally practicing physical distancing at the time, I knew the less contact I had with (possibly COVID-19 infected) strangers, the better off I was. So I skipped the museum, although I do wish now I had stopped long enough to take a photo of the exterior or the sign or something.

I also skipped the post office. I really wanted to stop in to buy a roll of postcard stamps, but…COVID-19. The number of COVID-19 cases was already quite high in Colorado by then, so I decided I was better off not going into the very small post office. I did take a photo of the mural painted on the outside of the post office.

“Los Caminos Antiguos” mural on the north outer wall of the Fort Garland post office.

According to Waymarking.com,

Los Caminos Antiguos (“The Ancient Roads”) from the Rio Grande to Fort Garland is the best route to follow through the region of the upper Rio Grande – the northern outpost of sixteenth century Spanish territorial expansion.

“I bet the altitude isn’t the only thing high around here,” I joked on Instagram.

I could find no indication of who painted the mural or when.

I did go into one of the gas stations to use the restroom and buy some snacks. None of the workers at the gas station were wearing masks, but of course this was in the days when the CDC was still saying we didn’t have to bother with masks unless we knew we were sick. I tried to avoid the other customers in the convenience store, and I only talked to the clerk as much as I had to in order to complete my purchase.

My snacks were tasty, but they did leave me feeling a little queasy.

There’s not much more I can tell you about Fort Garland, CO. After eating my snacks and taking a few photos, I started the truck and headed home.

I took the photos in this post.