Ben’s Gear on the Camping Trail

Ben’s Gear on the Camping Trail

If you’ve taken a look around here on my blog, you know I love to camp. Some folks are into backpacking and carry everything they need on the camping trail on their backs. I’m going to try that one day.

Some folks are into RV’s. Good option for campers with deep pockets but to me it’s like taking a small apartment with you on your outdoor adventure.

My preferred camping style is somewhere in the middle. The term “car camping” is heard a lot on sites and blogs that cover “camping stuff” and that’s the way this puppy rolls! (By the way, the term does not refer to sleeping in the car.)

You’d be amazed at how much gear I can fit into my 2006 PT Cruiser. I added a car-top carrier about ten months ago and I tote around a lot of gear with my rear seats folded down. (PT Cruisers have a rear hatch.) In fact, I carry way more than I need.

I’m big on my tent, the Coleman Picton II. And, yes, you can see it in the Featured Photo for this post. My camping domicile measures 10’×10′ 6″ and is very comfy for one or two happy campers. (Shown here from the back side with the rear vent deployed.) They say it could sleep up to eight, but that would be sardine-style! It’s designed to keep you warm and dry in winds up to 45 mph, believe it or not. If rain is not in the forecast, I like to keep the rain fly off. Makes for comfy, breezy nights. More about that in a minute…

The tent is just over 5′ high and that’s just right for me to change clothes in. I’m not very tall so that works out fine. I don’t like sleeping bags or cots, though I have a good cot. I’m into sleeping in hammocks or recliners. I have a camping recliner that works very well; it’s the camping equivalent of a Lazy Boy (but can be carried by 1 person) and has the added bonus of eliminating the worry of acid reflux being a big deal and spoiling my camping fun. The docs tell me to never sleep laying completely horizontal anyway; so a camping recliner is a great way to go!

One other bonus of sleeping in a recliner: if I didn’t need to use the rain fly, in a recliner I can see the stars above me through the tent ceiling! It’s a great thing, one of the reasons I camp so much! Seeing the boughs of trees above–same awesome pay-off!

I have two different one-burner stoves, one propane, the other uses the “shorty” composite propane/butane tank. That one is so tiny when folded for travel. Most cooking, though, is with my Texsport 2-burner; you could think of this as a “store brand” Coleman 2 burner stove. Just a bit cheaper. It’s been a champ. It’s easy to clean and when folded is really easy to carry around. It uses the 1 lb propane tanks you can buy anywhere; if you have the adapter, you could use your big 4.5 lb propane tank.

I carry three tables with me, one three-footer that uses the screw-in table legs that store under the table itself when not set up. The other two are the type that fold/unfold easily and snap together; those are 18″x18″ and 24″x24″ and are handy in or out of the tent. The three footer is the main thing in the tent but is not bad for cooking with my two-burner stove at sites where that standard over-sized picnic table is not provided.

I could easily put together another post about all the lanterns, flashlights, torches and miscellaneous small gear and tools I take along. It’s a lot of stuff. I’m not going to walk down that blogging path right now, but the main take-away is that if you decide to try the car camping method, you’ll probably be amazed at how much gear you can take along! A 30 ft RV is NOT required to have fun camping!

And besides, camping is way too cool to leave to the RV crowd! I’m not downing those folks at all. But campgrounds are mostly designed with RV’s in mind. In fact, there are destinations that have “campground” in their name don’t accommodate tent campers at all!  They’re NOT campgrounds, they’re RV Parks! That’s a pet peeve of mine and I really like sites that don’t treat car campers, aka tent campers, as second-class citizens!

My companion and I are now planning a camping outing at Wekiva Springs State Park in Longwood, Florida for later this month. I’m eager to get back there soon.

But regardless of where you prefer to pitch your tent, there’s nothing like camping for those of us who love to get outdoors. I do a lot of it, but not nearly enough! Get out of the house and out into nature, people!  You’ll be glad you did!

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

This feature first appeared in October of 2017

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

 

© 2017 Ben Lawrence Basile

Sheldon is New at the Zoo!

Sheldon is New at the Zoo!

There are three fine zoos within easy driving distance of my part of Florida. I love them all.

The Brevard Zoo in Melbourne is a real pleasure. I’ve spent many hours there checking out the wildlife and I’ve done the zip line, too. A fine facility from start to finish.

And now they have a new dragon! No, I’m completely serious!

His name is Sheldon, he’s an 11 year-old Komodo Dragon and you can find him in the Lands of Change exhibit!

If you’re anywhere around Central Florida, take a trip to Melbourne and pay a visit to Sheldon!

And tell him Bulldog sent you!

 

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile

A Visit to the Hunters Creek Applebee’s

A Visit to the Hunters Creek Applebee’s

Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar
13500 John Young Parkway
Orlando, Florida 32837

Call 407 206-5039

I’ve dined at the Applebee’s location in the Hunters Creek area of Orlando many times. If you’re from metro Orlando or visit much, you probably know that’s very close to the tourist area and only a mile from the Osceola county line. But this one is mostly patronized by locals, many of whom work in the tourism industry.

I’ve eaten at seven Applebee’s locations all total and this one is not very different from the others. I like the crew here, the bartenders especially and go there fairly often. I still have not tried the dining room, opting to sit at the bar. Sean and Ariana and a couple of other crew members have always taken good care of me. They have a decent beer selection and the “always happy hour” thing is awesome. That’s 2 for 1 ALL DAY, but on domestic drafts only. Beer lovers, you gotta love that!

There are seven or eight TV screens in the bar so there’s always something good on. This location has become my go-to spot for sports viewing, especially for games I can’t get at home. However, they don’t carry the pay-per-view events, such as UFC fights or those PPV championship boxing matches.

I like just about everything I’ve tried here and can recommend several appetizers. The Spinach and Artichoke Dip is always good, as are the Mozzarella Sticks; but my fave is the Sriracha Shrimp. Just the right amount of heat, you can’t beat this one!

I usually dine solo so I haven’t had a chance to go the “2 Entrees for $20” route, but it looks like a good value. What I had on my last visit was the Bourbon Street Steak and it was damn near perfect. And their garlic mashed potatoes are to die for!

The one draw back here is that their usual good service is not so good when the place fills up. I don’t like it, but it’s a common thing at chain restaurants. Management in chains are very, very focused on payroll costs and you can’t really staff for the hour and a half of each day when the place “blows up” as you’d have too many crew members for the other 80% of the shift. I get it, but I don’t like it. I hasten to add that it’s no worse here than most places I’ve visited.

This Applebee’s is quite family friendly. If fact, you’ll find many families with school-age kids seated in the bar area on just about every night. If you still have small ones in your posse, you can be seated wherever you like, bar included. (Not AT the bar, but in the bar area!)

Quick summary: moderate prices, great place to watch sports, good service, decent beer selection and very tasty menu offerings.

One more thing: there is a designated entrance to pick up take out orders on the north side of the building. Your order will be waiting in the bar area.

A little info to help you find it: this A-bee’s is an out building in a very large shopping complex and there’s lot of parking. It’s not all that easy to see from John Young, especially if you’re northbound. It’s across JYP from the Gator’s Dockside which is much easier to spot, so look on the west side of the road. The complex is just a wee bit south of where the 417 exit for John Young cuts through.

 

Bulldog thinks the menu is one of the best things about Applebee’s.  View it here:

 

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

 

Friction Farm Touring Florida and Playing at Long Point Park

Friction Farm Touring Florida and Playing at Long Point Park

In my last posting, I gave a quick run-down of last week’s very cool visit to a fave camping spot, Long Point Park in Melbourne Beach. And I mentioned that the trip gave me a long-overdue chance to catch up with an acoustic duo who’ve been at the top of my list for a long time. That would be Friction Farm, consisting of Aiden Quinn and Christine Stay.

Aiden and Christine are as good an acoustic duo as I’ve ever seen; their vocal harmonies are heartfelt, vibrant and warm. Their skill on their instruments is admirable — Aiden on guitar and Christine on acoustic bass and harmonica — and their stage presence is warm, even intimate at times without seeming contrived or schmaltzy.

What I like best about these two is that they skillfully create and showcase all original music in a way that is fresh but familiar. Their lyrics speak to me song after song, whether the tone is light and humorous or more purposeful and activist; and their well of melodic material is deep. I believe they’ve cut three new CD’s since I heard them last. Yes, it has been a while. But I’ve loved them every time I’ve been fortunate enough to catch one of their performances over the many years. (You’ve got to hear Red Fish, Blue Fish; especially if, like me, you’re a boomer and loved Dr. Seuss!)

If you hear of Friction Farm playing in your town, make sure you see them. And tell Aiden and Christine that Bulldog Ben sent you!

To view their site to hear cuts from their latest CD, I Read Your Book, see the complete discography or get on their email list, follow this link.

 

Photo used with permission

 

My Second Visit to Long Point Camp and Friction Farm!

My Second Visit to Long Point Camp and Friction Farm!

I got back into town six days ago after my return to Long Point Camp in Melbourne Beach. Had a very nice time but didn’t blog about it until now as I’m right in the middle of a move.

Moving is just about my least favorite thing in the whole world. It ranks just below having a root canal but a tad bit higher than throwing up on a crowded bus. And — as you all know well — moving is not just taxing physically and emotionally, it’s always really, really time-consuming. Yuck.

Be that as it may, my return to Long Point was a fine stretch of camping by any standard. The weather was absolutely perfect and I got a chance to see a couple of friends from the world of acoustic music that I don’t get to see very often. That would be Aidan Quinn and Christine Stay, known together in the world of acoustic music as Friction Farm. These two have been delighting lovers of acoustic music for over ten years now and they’re faves of mine.

Staying at one of the coolest campgrounds in the Sunshine State and getting to see Aidan and Christine again — two mighty fine days and a wonderful way to kick off the month of February!

Friction Farm is so darn good that I’m going to devote the next post to their show at Long Point Camp. I booked Long Point for this particular camping excursion specifically to have a chance to hear them and catch up on their musical adventures. Not that one needs a special reason to make a trip to Long Point, but I did want to see Friction Farm again. I’m glad I did.

So, more about the musical part of this excursion in a minute. I’ll wrap this up by saying that I hope you guys are having a splendid month of February and that at least some of you are getting to scratch that outdoor itch!

Back in the apartment and missing Mother Nature, I am,

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

First Watch is First Choice for Good Grub in Longwood

I found myself driving past First Watch one cold, dreary December morning recently and jumped at the chance to let someone else take care of breakfast. I had spent a very wet night camping nearby at Wekiva Springs State Park and was not up for making breakfast at my camp site. By the way, that park is beautiful; I’m whining only about the weather. I loved the park itself and will go back another day; perhaps Mother Nature will be in a better mood.

Anyway, back to First Watch. It is a fine choice for a hot and hearty breakfast, especially on a cold winter morning. The sausage and eggs were perfectly done, the rye toast could not have been better and my service was very good. The home fries seemed like they’d been under a heat lamp just a bit too long, but that’s a minor issue in my book.

I saw several couples having breakfast. I think I was the only solo patron on this trip. Although a saw no kids on this visit, it seemed as though it would be a family-friendly spot. I did see high chairs at the ready.

The decor at First Watch is simple and natural. Some would say boring. But I like and patronize places with tans, earth tones and some actual wood. Too many eateries now eschew anything that looks even remotely traditional but I like the “feel” here. I call it traditional-ish without being stodgy.

As far as value, my check was about what I’ve had at Peach Valley Cafe, Keke’s and other establishments offering breakfast and lunch. And there’s plenty of parking in the Publix shopping plaza where they’re located.

Loved it. Will most definitely go back to First Watch the next time I’m in that part of Central Florida.

 

First Watch ~ 2425 W State Rd 434, Longwood, Florida 32779 ~ 407 774-1830

Visited December 2016

Yes, the Astronauts Do Get to Vote

On the list of really important stuff that you may not have been wondering about: do astronauts get to vote?

They most certainly do.

Of course, this intrepid crew member did have to take the time to request a ballot, but request it she did. And she made sure her vote got counted.

To view this very cool video about celestial balloting, just follow this link.

 

With both feet firmly on Terra Firma, I am,

 

Bulldog Ben Basile