Monday, August 11, 2014

Chabot Regional Park

Our four nights in Anthony Chabot Regional Park in the hills above Oakland was more about not wanting to unpack and repack the trailer between planned camping weekends than necessarily wanting to go there, but we were pleasantly surprised with the campground and the miles of hiking and biking trails above and around Lake Chabot (hint: the sites in the 70’s are on a ridge overlooking the lake). While we got out for a few hikes and lots of strolls around the campground (mostly hunting a flock of wild turkeys fromt a Radio Flyer tricycle), we mostly wanted to take the opportunity to see some friends who lived in the East Bay and just live our normal lives.




And for me, my normal Monday meant driving *back* across the Bay with Wynne for a doctor’s appointment we’d made that first morning after second guessing our dismissal of the frequent urination requests from the backseat the day before, especially when combined with occasional mentions of an “owwie pee-pee” and plans to be farther from medical services in the coming weeks. Ann had loaded Wynne up with fluids that morning which meant of course that she was ready to burst just as we got on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Knowing that she’d need to give a “sample” when we got there, I found a sandwich shop where she could pee but then shoved a tall bottle of apple juice into her hands. She was just about frantic to stop again as we got off the exit 30 minutes north. Before I even gave the receptionist our name, I asked for a plastic cup and funneled her towards the bathroom. When we emerged moments later, I handed a cup filled all the way up to the tightly-screwed lid to the very-impressed nurse. Daddy skillz, yo.

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For Ann, normal life meant a visit from my Mom who had been in Africa for three and a half weeks and had barely gotten to see Mae before she left for the trip. Of course, she had been faithfully checking our iCloud photostream for cute snaps even while on safari taking photos of giraffes and cheetahs. As usual, she arrived with food, explaining that she’d brought paper plates, napkins and plastic silverware so there wouldn’t be any dishes for us to worry about. Very thoughtful and motherly of course, but missing the fact that garbage is harder to deal with in the trailer than a couple of our enamelware plates with a few crumbs on them. Also, we didn’t mind using our cloth napkins and had a drawer I’d built specifically to hold our complete collection of silverware. Yes, I’m a terrible son for complaining about slightly imperfect food delivery by a jet lagged septagenarian to our trailer parked 6.5 miles out a curvy road an hour from her house. I hope our kids don’t turn out like me. Thanks MOM! A nice visit and Wynne has been insisting on reading the fun (if sometimes oddly translated) children’s books Grandma brought back from Africa for bedtime each night and wearing her new animal shirt non-stop. The bear paw slippers, she already had.


Other friends have been asking how “camping” has been, particularly with the two kids. Of course, there are challenges unique to this type of living, but it’s not exactly “camping,” more like living in a small house that’s parked in a somewhat different place. In truth, it’s nice to have only the things you really need/want and everything within arms reach in the smaller space. We’ve got all the kid and baby toys, modes of transport, must-have bibs and choice sippy cups we use at home; We’ve got a great kitchen with all our knives and favorite kitchen gadgets, a fridge and freezer stocked with food, an oven to make fresh bread and pizza, a bathroom for showers and a baby bath every couple nights (and for when nature calls), TV and radio (and those “book” things) for entertainment and comfy seats and beds; And if the “house” gets too crowded or chaotic, we’ve got a HUGE backyard, usually filled with the neighbor’s kids.




On Monday afternoon, I got a text from my brother who lives in Oakland asking if we were up for a visit, something that normally would have required a one hour drive but now would only take them 25 minutes. After suggesting they come up for dinner and asking them to bring a salad, we preheated the oven and straightened up a bit as we would whenever we were expecting company. I grabbed two containers of the homemade ground pork and kale lasagna we always have in the freezer for easy dinners and dropped them in the covered cast iron skillet to warm for about 45 minutes. Somehow this lasagna gets even better after being frozen and the even heat of the cast iron was perfect, especially with 5 minutes uncovered at the end to brown the cheese on top just a little.

They arrived in a whirlwind, riling up Wynne with antics, snuggling and cooing at Mae, and dumping a bottle of wine, a six pack of beer, a baguette and a large wooden salad bowl on the table, complete with homemade dressing in a mason jar. Ann chatted with the girls inside (their niece also came along) while my brother and I drank a beer outside in our new Lafuma Cham Elips chairs, admiring the sunset through the Eucalyptus trees. As the fog began to roll in, my iPhone timer went off, so we went inside to take the lasagna out of the oven. With one of the Lafuma chairs in the aisle, we all crowded around the dinette. Well, in truth, as usual when eating dinner with us, either Ann or I was up from the table getting something for Wynne or bouncing Mae to sleep. As it got later, we drew a bath and the family took turns entertaining Wynne as she splashed around in the bottom of the shower.

My sister-in-law took some nice pictures that I thought really captured the evening and the very normal feeling of having a few people over to our rolling tiny home.


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The next morning, Wynne and I took a hike down to the lake. I get a chuckle out of how predictable the comments from people are as they see her riding along happily in the backpack. “Now that’s my kind of hiking!” “Can I be next?” “Honey, you need to get one of those for me!” I wrote a little about it in another post from Zion last Spring.



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And that evening, a couple other East Bay friends stopped by with their 5 1/2 month old baby. It’s always nice to visit friends who have kids around the same age because they usually have anything you could need from bouncy seats to baby rattles to picture books. And like my brother and family the night before, these guys were able to really make themselves at home as we drank an IPA, ate some hummus and chips and caught up.

The next morning, I drove Wynne back across the bay to Marin so she could spend a day with my mom while I checked in at the office where I still (occasionally) do a little work. Okay honestly, I also took a good part of that time digging through the bins of salvaged bike derailleurs at the Recyclery to replace the one I’d bent on my bike. We met the whole family over at my brother’s place for dinner that night, which meant the fourth night in a row Wynne had been up until after 9:00. Not exactly the gentle transition into trailer life we’d had in mind, but other than a few wake ups that would have happened at home too, she rolled with it.

In the end, it was a pretty busy week between social calls and just “gettin’ $h!t done,” but the trailer worked out perfectly as a home base. We’d been “dry camping” all week – no connections to water, power or sewer services – but all we really needed was a couple extra jugs of fresh water. Although the fresh and gray water tanks are the same size (39 gallons), some of the fresh water is used for drinking and some of it goes into the black tank for flushing the toilet. We somehow ended up putting in 24 extra gallons and still weren’t full in either holding tank. Hmmm. Drinking a lot of water, I guess. Our solar panels kept us fully charged the entire time with the batteries never really dipping to below 95%.

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With plans to spend one night parked out in the pasture at our house so Ann could make a doctor’s appointment before we headed north, we got an early start on Thursday morning heading for the bridge and hopefully some time to catch up on sleep.