Dorian is coming, we’re getting ready

Dorian is coming, we’re getting ready

Hurricane Dorian is a fierce storm. I thought using the camp stove for our morning coffee would be a wise thing to do.

So I set it up on the pool deck and we enjoyed a really tasty and robust cup o’ Joe this morning, compliments of my two-burner camp stove.

Based on the latest forecasts, it sounds less and less likely that my trusty stove will be necessary after Dorian has passed by.

But I love any reason to use that tried-and-true piece of camping gear. And this morning’s reason was as good as any.

I hope you’re enjoying this Saturday morning and that there are no storms bearing down on you today.

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

© 2019 Ben Lawrence Basile

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile

Just As Beautiful As Ever

Just As Beautiful As Ever

I did, indeed, make it back to Trimble Park near Mt Dora, Florida this week.

I had a reservation for this last Monday and Tuesday. I arrived just at the 2 PM check-in time and had camp set up within an hour or so.

I took a long stroll around the park. It’s huge. And I was struck again with just how very beautiful Trimble Park truly is.

It’s the crown jewel in the Orange County Park System in my estimation. It must be seen to be appreciated fully.

I was a bit apprehensive about this outing as our weather here in Central Florida has been awful. Lots of heat and lots and lots of rain.

That’s not unusual by any means, but it can make certainly put a damper on outdoor activities, camping especially.

When I began to set up, I realized that I do tote around quite a bit of gear. You can see a lot of it in this photo. The funny thing is that this was only roughly 2/3 of what I actually carry. But unpacking the whole car to take that photo would simply have taken too much time.

The whole site got very, very wet on the first night as we had a very intense thunderstorm come through. Nothing unusual there.

Because the rain fly works well on my Coleman Picton 2 tent, the water inside the tent was bearable. Especially since I sleep on a recliner and not on the ground.

But it was still a serious snafu as it took me until noon on Tuesday to get the tent completely dry.

The weather folk predicted that Tuesday night would be as wet or wetter than Monday, so I thought it through and made the decision to cut short this outing.

My main camera was malfunctioning as well, making the decision to abort the second half of my stay seem even more inevitable.

But I did get some good pix with the cell camera. Such a good thing that we carry a decent camera around with us wherever we go! Mine has come through for me on a number of occasions.

Something I always enjoy is making camp coffee each morning. You know, the kind of coffee you can only get by perking it the old-fashioned way!

The coffee Tuesday morning was glorious and almost made me forget all about the wet gear which would soon require nearly all my attention for about three hours.

And my usual first-morning breakfast of fried eggs and grits was tasty. Alas, there was not to be any second-morning breakfast.

I broke camp around 1 PM, shortly after getting everything bone-dry and ready to stow.

The other thing that went well on this abbreviated outing was that I brought enough wood to keep my campfire burning for over three hours. That part of the trip was awesome. I had no rain on the site after about midnight so I didn’t turn in until almost 4 AM!

But I’ll gladly lose sleep to have the pleasure of tending a fire for a few hours. Didn’t cook anything in it on this trip, but it still scratched that itch for me, as it does each time.

It’s true that this outing was not all it could have been. But this saying is still true for me as I wrap up this post:

The worst day in the woods is better than the best day spent indoors!

Old Camper’s Saying

I hope your next outing is perfect. I know for certain that it will be worthwhile!

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

© 2019 Ben Lawrence Basile

Photo credits Ben Lawrence Basile

Returning to Trimble Park

Returning to Trimble Park

I made a camping reservation today to get back to one of my favorite spots to camp in all of Florida.

I’m referring to Trimble Park, right were Orange and Lake counties meet. I’ve camped there three times and am delighted to be heading back.

This adventure is coming next week. And I’m already starting my preps.

The banner photo for this post was taken there at Trimble a couple of years ago. It’s a favorite for me and readers and friends have told me on many occasions that it’s a keeper!

The very photogenic bird in this picture posed beautifully and cheerfully and signed the required photo release the moment I asked him!

How cool is that?!

All silliness aside, I am heading back to Trimble Park very soon with my camera at the ready!

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

© 2019 Ben Lawrence Basile

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile

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

Fighting Funny Food Phobias

Fighting Funny Food Phobias

Some of you may know that I spent a huge chunk of my working life as a server. At Disney, and many other places. Some well-known chains, some Mom-and-Pops, a pretty good cross section of restaurants.

And that’s one reason why I enjoy doing restaurant reviews. I love to cook and bake; being a foodie is a big part of who I am.

Now, sanitation is one of those things that everyone who cooks–whether at home or in a 5-Star establishment–thinks about.

When you’re in the business, a big part of your training is in safe food handling procedures.

And that’s as it should be. I’m not trying to say differently.

But some of our attitudes about food, how we prepare it and our relationship to it have become just a bit… shall we say, just a bit overly-sanitized.

Let me flesh that out a little: our ways of preparing and even thinking about food are a huge departure from how humans have done it for all but a tiny fraction of the time we’ve been on the planet.

Two brief anecdotes about my experiences with food and how we prepare it will help shed some light on this.

Unless you’re reading my blog for the first time, you know I love camping and just about anything else one can do outdoors for fun.

And I’m happiest when I’m cooking on my propane, two-burner camp stove. It’s just way too much fun.

This may seem funny, but you should have seen how hard I tried in some of my first outings in the great outdoors to translate restaurant “best practices” into the camping environment.

Yeah, it was pretty funny!

It wasn’t too long into the process that I gave up trying to always keep something more-or-less sanitized–even if just paper towels–between my cooking utensils and cutlery and those not-sanitized picnic tables.

It feels really good now to just cook my stuff, tongs and utensils, ladles and pot stickers, lids, grits and bacon bits, all flying around and coming to rest God-knows-where until the good stuff eventually comes to rest in my belly! Where it should go!

Even I am not OCD enough to prepare my food on one of those glorious forays into the Mom Nature’s back yard the way we do in a decent eatery or even in my kitchen, for that matter.

Last little story about this and how my awareness has evolved: I opened a container of brown rice the other day and found that some moth-like pests had paid a visit between the time I emptied a bag of rice into the jar and that moment I opened it up. And, yes, that had been a long time.

Not sure if they were able to get in there–it was a very cheap container–or if they were larvae who “came of age”. Rice and grits and pantry pests! It’s a thing.

Don’t know. Didn’t have to know.

The “me” before my camp cook’s epiphany would have gone “yuck!” and then summarily thrown out the rice.

The “me” after illumination picked out the corpses of the moths or weevils or whatever the hell they were, cooked the rice and enjoyed the hell out of it.

A little onion, garlic, cumin and weevil protein–loves me some o’ dat!

So I’ve tried to get past some of my silly food phobias and feel like I’ve come a long way.

But I’m thinking that if you go back just a bit further–in terms of human evolution, I mean–our forebears would have handled the bug-in-the-rice thing a bit differently.

No doubt in my mind, that they would merely have picked out the bugs and eaten them! 

Dead or alive!

I guess at the end of the day, I’m actually a pretty modern camper!

 

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

© 2019 Ben Lawrence Basile

Photo credit Benjamin Basile

 

 

I did get back there and…

I did get back there and…

I enjoyed my camping trip to Tosohatchee WMA just beyond Christmas. That awesome but tiny little town is the last community before the Orange-Brevard line.

Had a good time but I did learn one unpleasant lesson: even in a Wildlife Management Area, where you can go days without seeing another human, you really should keep your car locked at all times.

Or, at the very least, you shouldn’t keep that hatch up while you’re doing stuff at your camp site!

My awesome camp coffee maker flew away! Bummed. But I have another. Just couldn’t get the juice of the sacred bean on this trip!

Still very glad I made the trip and got my outdoor fix for the next week or two.

Then I’ll have to have another, or I’ll start getting a little cross-eyed and stuff!

I did get some good pix. Including the banner photo at the top. That was on the extreme edge of Tosohatchee, where it dead ends into the St. Johns River.

Herons and thieves. What a combo! So glad to have gone. Planning the next excursion…

 

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile

 

Heading back to Tosohatchee!

Heading back to Tosohatchee!

Haven’t been camping in about three months or so and I’m going through withdrawals! No, that’s not a joke!

So I’ll get my next “nature hit” in about a week’s time and I’m all jacked up over it!

I like the Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area for camping. This will be my fifth trip out to this choice nature spot and my second camping outing there.

You may remember from a previous post that you need a hunting permit to hunt Florida’s WMA’s  but not to camp. You just can’t camp in any hunting season.

It’s quite primitive. No hook-ups of any kind. Porta Johns and no showers. So it’s real camping. I’m one of those campers who carries a boat load of propane and every kind of battery powered device know to man, so I do just fine in these spots.

It’s also a time to take a jillion photos, so that’s a big part of the allure of camping for this puppy. I’ll have plenty pix to share on the other side of this very welcome outing!

If you love Nature like I do, make sure you get out there in the middle of it soon! Your Mother’s calling…

And you best answer!

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile