Sunday, April 27, 2008

My Campaign Strategy

This Maryland campsite had the best of all worlds--semi-secluded campsites, water/electric, laundry facilities, and lots of beautiful scenery.

In my "younger" years, about 12 years ago, I gave serious thought to running for Congress. Well, the thought was serious, but when I sought the advice from a Congresswoman I knew, the money needed and personal sacrifice required splashed cold water on my hot idea.

Now, as we're in the midst of what seems like an eternal campaign season, I've had too much time to think. But my one RV-relevant thought is worth sharing.

Presidential candidates should spend time talking to campers in state parks. Yes, I know camping is a largely Anglo-Saxon pastime. I am not suggesting this is the ONLY venue they should visit, but bear me out....

In campgrounds you will find an interesting cross-section of America. Some wealthier people with their spiffy $1 million+ McMansion/RVs; crustier full-timers who either travel lots of miles or within a smaller area; families camping on the weekend to get their kids outside and to enjoy the offerings of our state parks; the vacationers who like getting closer to nature than the 4-walled motel rooms; and from what I've seen, some people who live in parks because they have lost their place to stay.

The candidates can come in casual duds and maybe partake in some BBQ chow or slam back a cold lemonade while chatting with the campers. While I'm sure lapel pins, debate formats, and other hot topics may be on the minds of some folks, based on my 2 1/2 years on the road, with countless nights in state parks, I imagine the issues list would look something like this:

  • Cost of Housing/Property Taxes I've overheard more than one conversation about how someone's sold their home to get out from under the burden of housing costs and property taxes. It's not just seniors. Then we have the burgeoning sub-prime and foreclosure debacles. Hearing some practical approaches to solving these growing crises would be welcomed.
  • Environmental concerns will also be an issue. On the most basic level, recycling--a rarity at campgrounds--and suggestions about protecting/improving conditions of our lakes and rivers, forests and undeveloped and park lands will likely arise. Park maintenance budgets would be good to include in the conversation, with the obvious suggestion of a 21st century version of Depression-age initiatives to give people jobs and restore dignity to the growing ranks of unemployed women and men.
  • Education and care for our children are prime topics. Parents who bring their kids out for a camping trip invest a lot in providing valuable experiences for their kids. They'll want to hear of real plans to improve governmental services that enhance the quality of life of ordinary people and provide educational opportunities so their kids can become productive adults.
  • Safety and neighborhood environment are subjects for discussion. It's amazing to get a group of strangers together, some shielded from the outside by the thinnest of fabric walls, and you have--at least from my experience--relative peace and civil behavior. Maybe change-of-pace has something to do with it, but we could learn from campground management, especially the unsung heroes who serve as camp hosts.
  • Health issues affect everyone. Providing healthy activities and good nutrition can go a long way to improving people's health, not dismissing the need for access to medical services at a rate that doesn't cause bankruptcy.
  • Fuel prices will surely make the list of worries for the camping public. Not just gas prices, but home heating oil, propane and electricity....
  • Economy--Add to the list how the next President can salvage an economy that is as close to doom-and-gloom as anyone would want to see...
  • War--then explain how military--and more critically para-military --involvement in the Mideast will be handled.
Then the candidates can hop back on the campaign trail, refreshed, knowing that they've heard from an oft-ignored segment of the American public.

Sure beats the hypocrisy of standing in New Orleans over 2 years later and decrying lack of action. Well, there I go, getting all political again....

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day Musings

My restorative view at Pinochet State Park in PA.

I love Mother Earth. Sometimes I feel huge guilt driving a gas-guzzling RV, but I assuage that guilt by mentally calculating that my carbon footprint in other aspects of my life probably (hopefully) reduce the unavoidable stomp that comes with driving a 10 mpg vehicle. Kind of like stepping on flowers but harvesting organic veggies....

For the other parts of my life I try to be earth-friendly: recycling (though not as passionately as Sr. Paula, my high school English teacher does), using earth (and people) friendly Shaklee cleaning products, skimping on use of water and electricity (sometimes not by choice), and consuming only what is necessary. I know it's not enough, but I'm growing better each day.

But a couple environmental issues/topics continue to vex me:

Plastic bags. I hate seeing plastic bags blowing in the wind or hanging like ghosts on tree branches. I've been annoyed for decades by our collective inability to manage plastic bags. But, what's the deal with the big plastic bag bandwagon that only goes as far as grocery bags? What about other, less flexible products like those impenetrable plastic product protectors that require a stick of dynamite to open ( could go on and on...)? And what are people supposed to use to securely toss their garbage?

Recycling. Why do some places have mega recycling efforts and some places have none? Campgrounds would be a prime example relative to where I am now. I am happy to find the only small propane canister recycling bin here, but no other recycling opportunities are visible. And I've been storing up waiting to find one. Yikes!

As I listen to the peaceful sounds of nightfall,
sitting here surrounded by trees much older than me,
feeling the energy from the nearby lake,
I'm grateful for the opportunity to find a state park to spend some time in that offers such beauty....

I look forward to spending time getting caught up on work, but also getting refreshed by the gift of nature that surrounds me. I hope we can protect what's left of Mother Earth's precious offerings.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I'm Crazy!

My preference for backroads is renowned. My Iowa welcome pix reminds me of the bucolic Midwest, a place I will hopefully be in a few weeks.

If anyone ever needed proof that I was crazy, here ya go....

I just finished a 3-day stint in Boston where I had the joy of introducing our 2008 version of My Own Four Walls.

Thanks to the generosity of a high school classmate/friend of mine I had a great place to park "Tillie" while I worked the young homeless children convention. Jan and her husband, Paul, rented me a car so I could avoid driving Tillie into Beantown. That was a massive help, for obvious reasons.

Of all the major cities I've driven in (I do try to avoid the urban plunge but I've done Portland, Atlanta, Chicago, Little Rock, Las Vegas, and Dallas) Boston is by far the worst! Now for the reason I'm crazy....

Two years ago I was invited to meet with the editorial board of the Christian Science Monitor. Their headquarters sit smack dab in downtown Boston. I camped at a state park south of Boston and made arrangements with my CSM contact for a parking spot.

I left extremely early (that's where my good sense ends) for my 1:00 appointment. Armed with maps and chutzpah, I headed into the fray. Sometimes trauma blurs memories of reality for good reason. I do remember driving up and down streets that looked like I imagine Iraqi streets--totally destroyed. One-way streets intensified the challenge augmented by a profusion of overly-bold walking and bike-riding bodies.

All that was bad enough but when push came to shove after about 1 1/2 hours, I couldn't find the building. Now, to my credit I did cut my losses and retreat to a shopping center parking lot and parked Tillie, hopping on a bus. Yeah, why didn't I think of that before taking the plunge? I admit to being a tad frazzled at the onset of the meeting, but the warmth and the group's genuine interest in homelessness put me at ease (no easy task!!).

For the record, the next time I have to go into Boston, I'm renting a helicopter! I've never seen roads that bad--torn up, in need of being torn up, unmarked, pot-holed, teeming with double-parked cars and trucks. I could go on and on. I think Boston is an awesome city if you don't have to drive. (For the record, I tried taking the train from an outlying community but the parking lot was filled and no alternatives were apparent.)

My longing for rural roads of any persuasion is so strong that only nighttime is keeping me from climbing behind the wheel tonight.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

O Neglected Blog

"Camp Black Hawk College" in Moline, IL, was a recent stopping point in this HEAR US journey.

Argh! The joy of blogging turns into the pain of not having time to blog. I'm not dead. I'll be back to my abnormal routine soon. Check back!