Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Camping in Ireland

The American born author, Marianne Williamson, once wrote: We may have bad weather in Ireland, but the sun shines in the hearts of the people and that keeps us all warm.

 Nothing could be more true once a person spends time on the Emerald Isle and experiences firsthand a deluge from above which can chill to the bone but seems to dry instantly once they step into a pub. The smiling faces of the locals warms the heart and the welcoming conversations eases the discomfort of a rainy day.

That's how to warm up in a pub

Sunny afternoon and ready to set up camp

As we spent a month camping across Ireland it became apparent that Williamson knew a thing or two about the people of Ireland. Spending time tenting, cooking, and just socializing with fellow campers made us realize what a delight the Irish were.

Being of Irish ancestry, we both knew that we ourselves were a delight but meeting other delightful people only made the trip more delightful. 

Maybe not that delightful


Done and done for the evening

A comfort of green grass better than a mattress - almost!
Back to the point – camping in Ireland is wonderfully rewarding with soft green grass to set up tents (pitching), cozy communal kitchens with fireplaces (because it rains a lot), large spacious restrooms with showers (one had over twenty separate shower stalls), laundry facilities, and close proximity to all the sight seeing any explorer could desire. The prices are reasonable – anywhere from twenty to sixty dollars per night which is relative to the United States considering all the amenities offered at the Caravan and Camping Parks. With large open lots with room enough for trailers, self-contained motorhomes and of course tents – which we used on our Ireland adventure, the parks offer any camper a chance to relax in style.

More than enough room for everyone no matter the style

 And generally cheaper than hotels.

The friends you may encounter while pitching
Though with camping there is more of a chance actually sitting in the evening with fellow travelers and discovering a lot about them and yourselves. Everyone we came into contact with were extremely friendly and had stories to tell – all Irish have stories to tell – and some are truthful.

At one camping park Laureen and John ran into a mother and daughter who were from England and were spending two months in Ireland moving from park to park to get a real feel of the country. A glass of wine or two in the cozy and fire warmed dining area – it had been raining hard which brought the temperature down quite a bit making the wood stove a welcome respite to enjoy swapping tales. From Ireland they were headed to Africa for a six month journey on their own. No detailed itinerary but simply a lust for adventure and new experiences.

Another pitching park, a young couple and their children were enjoying the grassy knolls and the wooded glens which contained narrow hiking paths. It was their holiday and from living in Dublin, the countryside was just what they wanted. The weather was warm and sunny which made this family take advantage of the outdoors.

What lies beyond in the glen?
 One evening around ten-thirty while sitting enjoying a refreshing glass of spirits we found ourselves camped on a high open area with a view of an amazing bay. A few houses sprinkled the hillsides near us while fishing boats bobbed up and down in the dark blue waters beneath us. Idyllic especially with the clear night sky giving us such views of the northern stars. Suddenly our peaceful serenity was broken by a man walking by on his way home from a local pub, the camp was in a small and quiet village. He stopped, tipped his hat and said good evening. We responded in kind and he laughed and pointed to the cloudless heavens.

“It’s going to rain you should be knowing?”

John smiled in return and gestured to Laureen that the man had had one too many pints at the local watering hole.

The clouds moved in around one a.m. and at least three-quarters of an inch of rain fell on top of our tent soaking everything – especially us.

Three hours later a deluge leaving everything soaking!

 With a laugh and dry clothes the next morning we headed to a nearby hotel where we set up our tent in our room to dry out. Always did wonder what the hotel maid must have thought over that scene – a king sized bed with a tent next to it?

Bloody tourists!

Again, to camp in Ireland is a great eye opening experiences that we would recommend to anyone with a mind to follow the example of thousands who do it yearly. 

Jack Nicholson once said: “I’m Irish. I think about death all the time.” Not to disagree with such a remarkable talent but perhaps if he would take the time to camp in his home country the quote may change to: “I’m Irish. There’s nothing better than pitching a tent in a quiet glen and rejoicing that I am alive.”

Hey Nicholson - relax and dream of life and not death  - huh?

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Out on the Range

In the middle of the desert just a few miles east of Salton Sea and about fifty or so miles south of Indio, California, exists a place which comes to life only on Saturday nights. Rain or shine and though it is after dusk  this place rocks to varied beats of sound for varied sorts of humans.

We’re talking about The Range! 
Lit up for entertainment!

A place so hip and remote that people come from around the world to visit this famous – or infamous venue to sing, play music, recite poetry, be standup comics, or just want to express their feelings about the world through imagination and creativity.

Mystery Man? Who is he? He wouldn't tell us!

The Range is located within the confines of Slab City – an eclectic setting of RVs, tents, and whatever else which could be an excuse to call home. The Slabbers, as they refer to themselves, have taken to residing within what used to be a 640 acre military installation known as Camp Dunlap, a Marine training facility which operated from 1942 to 1946. By the early 1960’s the installation was demolished and in came the residents taking up space on the cement slabs which used to house barracks and the like. Thus the term ‘slabbers.’

More and more folks moved here with temporary or full time residency, and then like magic a full blown community was hatched.

Home sweet home?

With any village, which the Slabs was turning into, the people wanted more and more things – things like entertainment. This is where the innovative ‘Builder Bill’ comes into play.

 ‘Builder Bill’ who taught himself how to play the guitar, decided that he had a vision. And that epiphany was the design of an outdoor stage where locals and not so locals could come and enthrall the early nighttime crowds.

Locals moving to the groove - perhaps 'enthralled'

 What started out small ended up large with entertainers from about the globe traipsing across the sandy outreaches of the Slabs to bring joy and smiles to hundreds of guests on the seventh eve each week.

Actually, very talented bands

As John and Paul (Laureen wasn’t able to make this adventure) wandered through the crowds ‘grooving’  to the various bands, it was a wonder this seemingly forlorn stretch of stage three short miles from the shores of the Salton Sea weren’t hosting top-notch musical acts. But, perhaps it was – the three bands we listened to were actually very good with one female vocalist who also played acoustic belting out tune after tune impeccably. Sadly it was her last show at The Range since she was moving on the following day to more gigs in San Francisco.

Off to Frisco - last gig at the Range

The guests waved to the beat and yes, there was a strange odor in the air but it was the entertainers allowing the body movements with excellent sounds and not the cannabis. Then again, since the J and L crew did not participate who knows?
No issues – no violence – no drama. People having fun dancing, laughing, singing and having a good time beneath the rising moon at The Range.

People with children – people with dogs – dogs with dogs – people all alone - no one was turned away and the music played on.

Touching but oddly awkward.

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