Sunday, July 2, 2017

All Packed Up ...

It's a holiday weekend for sure when you see so many vehicles on the freeway jam packed to the brim with STUFF!!  Camping gear for the most part.  As I watched many of them pass me, it brought back memories of our family camping trips ... once a year ... to wild parts of California.  Yes there actually were wild parts of California way back in the dark ages.

We would pack everything in the back of our 1959 Buick, including an old army tent that weighed 200 pounds.  It kept the rain off and was a place to change clothes, but it smelled terrible.  On occasion, everything (including us kids) were packed in the back of our smallest cattle truck after a quick wash.  It didn't smell much better.  We would stand behind the cab and let the wind blow us over.  

I tried not to wake all the neighbors in Tehachapi as I zipped up the rig for the final leg home.  Traffic actually wasn't bad since most of the truckers take Saturday off.  Down into the valley of smog I drove.
As soon as I hit Highway 99, the entertainment began.  After all, there's certainly not much to look at as you travel along this corridor.  It was interesting how many boats I saw.  I'm not sure where all the lakes are around Bakersfield, but there must be quite a few.  Even motorhomes were towing boats.

Most of our early vacations were to Yosemite National Park.  Back in the day, you could drive in, find what looked like a nice wide camping spot by the river, drive off the road and park.  There were no "campgrounds" ... you made yours wherever you wanted.  Ours was always by the river for water and fishing.  Yup ... back in the old days we got all our drinking water from the river.  These days without filtration, you'll probably die ... or at least get so sick you WISH you would die.
Mostly I saw pickups packed to the gills.  this one had a paddle board, a kayak and a seadoo.  I hope he had them all tied to the truck, because he had removed the tailgate in order for them to fit.  Now there's an active couple!!  Wasn't I shocked to see a seadoo strapped to the back of a Suburban.  I've no idea how it didn't just fall off and hit the pavement!!

One of my Dad's favorite spots was Red's Meadows off Hwy 395 North of Bishop.  It was a long drive in on a dusty dirty gravel road.  We were alone for the most part because it was so far away in the back country.  Bears were always a problem, especially since we never slept in the tent unless it was raining.  We always slept outside under the stars and over a big pile of pine needles each of us had to gather for our bed.  No, it was NOT comfortable.  We slept in our clothes for warmth and used our one change of shirt wadded up for a pillow.
Here's the typical family of four with every square inch of space inside full of groceries, camping gear and clothes.  Ice chests are mandatory.  The tent and a big black plastic bag of something is tied to the roof.

The main objective of our camping trips was FISHING.  Everyone had a fishing pole, a pocket knife and bait.  There were no stringers ... you cut a piece of willow to hold the fish you caught.  I got my first knife at about 8 years of age (still carry it every day).  Luckily I didn't cut my finger OFF, but it sure felt like I did.  I can clean a trout faster than you can say let's eat!!
If you don't have enough room INSIDE the vehicle and the roof can't be stacked any higher, just get one of these hitch add-ons.  These things scare me.  People put so much weight on them that the front tires barely skim the surface of the highway.  

Most of the fishing forays involved driving a few miles, then walking 3 or 4 more to get to the best fishing holes where you could actually catch german brown or native rainbow trout.  You were on your own.  Don't fall in because no one will be there to drag you out.  We rarely failed to bring home dinner to Mom who generally never left the campsite.  Trout, fried potatoes and biscuits were on the menu every day we caught something.  Otherwise, chipped beef on toast was a pretty good incentive to try harder the next day.
If an add-on STILL isn't big enough, you can always rent a trailer.  I just can't imagine packing and unpacking all this gear.  I think they brought everything but the kitchen sink.  

We took very little with us on these trips.  We had a camp box full of pots and pans, canvas and rope to make a roof when it rained and the tarps for sleeping.  There was only one ice chest, a couple of wash basins for dishes, a set of stackable tin plates and a huge coffee pot.  There were never any drinks other than the water we got from the river or campground.  Minimal was the word.  You might get a change of shirt, but you wore the same levis the entire week.
All went well on the trip home until I got to Fresno.  There are two sections of highway that always, and I mean ALWAYS, back up because some idiot slams on his brakes when his head is somewhere it shouldn't be.  In this case a young 20-something was rear-ended by another 20-something.  In a split second, his car was totaled.  The highway became a parking lot.  
In the case of no fish for dinner, let me extoll the virtues of chipped beef on toast.  Powdered milk, water, a little flour for thickening, LOTS of pepper and a little bacon grease (there was ALWAYS a can of bacon grease on our stove and in our camp box), followed by a jar of chipped beef.  Stir well.  

Everyone had their own fork, upon which we carefully balanced a piece of bread, holding it next to the flames of our ever lit campfire, in order to "toast" it to brown goodness before smothering it in chipped beef gravy.  I loved it.  It was better than the peanut butter and jelly leftover pancake sandwiches we always had for lunch.

I'm home ... home to 96 degree temperatures.  It actually doesn't feel bad at all when you've spent a week or more at 106+.  It's time to relax before heading to the grocery store.  I'm in need of some pork .... smoked pork!!  Let the holiday begin!!!


  1. Back in my days (the early 70's), my mom made SOS (Sh?? On a Shingle). Same concept as your chipped beef. LOVED IT!!
    Welcome to the heat!! Idaho is looking at around 102 for the Fourth, with the rest of the week being around the same.
    Glad you had a safe trip!
    Liz-Boise, ID

    1. 102 in Idaho?? Yikes!!! Sometimes when we couldn't afford the dried beef sold in the little glass bottle, Mom made it with hamburger. It was truly SOS!!

  2. It wasn't until I was working and started camping on my own that my parents got into it. Seeing all those vehicles Packed to the Gills brings back recent memories when Kathy and I see the same on the road while we travel in our Home.
    Glad you made it Home Safely.

    It's about time.

    1. Tis true ... every weekend while I'm in Oregon, I see lots of "car camping". I'm always happy when they leave! LOL

  3. Glad you made it! When we were at the Grand Canyon, a truck with a very large open trailer came into the campgrounds...they had everything including the kitchen sink! It must have taken 6 hours to set up camp, and two days later...less than 48 hours later, they were gone.

    1. If it was that much work, my Dad wouldn't do it. I actually LIKE taking the kitchen sink along however!!

  4. It's been years since I had chipped beef on toast. I wonder how long this craving will now last?

    1. Too funny Linda. We got ours is a little glass jar that became our breakfast juice glass. I doubt they still sell it.