Grandmother Packed a Pistol

Chronicles of a Wandering Marshmellow, Essay

Site 17 Burke Cottages and Campground, West Burke, Vermont

Marshmellow has been parked at site 17 at the Burke Cottages and Campground for the last week. Save for the first few days, we have been the only campers. With the border closed, Kingdom Trails and the surrounding area are devoid of many of the riders who visit in the summer. 

Our first two full days of this trip fell on the weekend, so we spent a day and a half taking advantage of the lift service at the Burke Mountain Bike Park. This means there are no hard climbs for your day of biking, just a relaxing chairlift ride up to the top so that you can hurtle down the mountain on smoothish trails that deposit you right back at the lift so you can do it all over again. For those folks who are not satisfied with just hurtling down the mountain, the designers put in gap jumps, drops, cannons, and other things that will send those with enough hutzpah flying through the air. I am not one of those people. I like my bones the way they are, not broken. Lift service downhill is Luke’s favorite way to ride. Thankfully he is not hucking himself off of any of the aforementioned features, but I am sure it is only a matter of time. He is always out in front, floating down the trail with ease. This should come as no surprise. The first time he got on his strider bike, he went straight into the woods and down the hill on a trail I had made. Noah loves downhill riding too, but he also enjoys the challenge of a good climb and is a bit more cautious on the descents. Erin joined us for the first time and though she learned firsthand why the pedals we all use are called shin-bashers, she kept at it, even getting a little air now and then. She is one cool mama. Not only does she save lives, but she mountain bikes too. 

We’ve had a few spicy moments both with Marshmellow and as a family on this trip. The latter is normal, and any family who tells you they don’t bicker after living a week in a fourteen foot Marshmellow is a liar.  The charging of the battery and the solar are so confounding that Erin and I go in circles trying to figure it all out. At least on this trip we have not run out of power–we wisely got a generator because, surprise, it is not always sunny in Vermont. We did completely drain the battery on our last trip here. That little snafu forced us to go to an RV park, which caused Erin to cry because RV parks are not where we want to stay, no matter how nice the pool is. It poured one night this week, at just the right angle, and one of the windows leaked. One morning in our haste to ride we did not take down the awning and returned to find that the awning and the poles had twisted themselves into a pretzel. The awning is still usable and the water dried so we keep plodding on (KPO).

Grandmother, Uncle Stephen and Sheba

The first drafts of this essay started out talking about my grandmother and how she carried a pistol when she drove across the country. She did not use the expressways nor did she stop at designated campgrounds. She would just pull over along the side of the rode and go to sleep when that time came. She was a fascinating and tenacious woman who did not let the rigid views of society stand in her way. I wanted to tie that and some other observations together to form a message about tenacity, optimism and courage, but that fell apart. I’ve learned not to let that sort of thing derail me too much. It is good to have a plan, but it is better to be able to change that plan when it is clear that is what needs to be done. We are also working hard to live in the moment and to be present, and with that being said, it’s time for another ride. 

Tally Ho!

We Live in a Giant Marshmallow

Chronicles of a Wandering Marshmellow, Essay

We were still in the icy throes of winter when we started making reservations for an August road trip west. That is how we roll; we dream and we plan six or more months in advance. Campgrounds were secured, boondocking (free camping with no facilities. think: truck stop or all that national land we all own) sites scrutinized via Google Earth, and plans were made with friends we’d not seen in nearly ten years, all of it meticulously penciled into the calendar. A cross country road trip with our new travel trailer was the stuff our dreams were made of. Literally, we’ve always dreamed of having a camper, individually and then together. We’ve been known to interrupt camper owners in the middle of their parking lot breakfast to ask questions and cast longing glances at the interior of their vehicle. The dream of the open road, no plans just ambling along embracing the free spirit of the vagabond–we can roll with changes, but who am I kidding, there is no way we would ever amble along without some sort of plan–I added nostalgia to our dreams because my grandmother had an orange VW camper–which on a few occasions she drove, with her German Shepherd, from California to Vermont to visit us–to this day the memory of the camper and visits still set my mind swirling with a thousand different fantasies of adventure.  

Marshmellow arrived in May of this year–we had hired a shipper to get it to this side of the country. It came from Armadillo Trailers in British Columbia, and I jumped through a few hoops to get it over the border since it was and still is closed. The spelling is correct. Marshmellow is spelled with an E not an A because it has a mellow vibe and looks like a giant marshmallow. At fourteen feet, our little travel trailer can sleep all four of us. The dinette turns into a bed and the couch turns into bunk beds. It looks small on the outside but is surprisingly spacious on the inside. When the boys grow to be six feet tall they might feel a little cramped, but by then they can go sleep in a tent. More room for Erin and me!  We have a fridge/freezer that can hold a weeks’ worth of food, a small two burner stove and a quaint sink to pile high with dishes. The inside is actually laid out very much like my grandmother’s camper was. There is a heater for the cool nights and brisk mornings. Big windows allow in plenty of light, and there’s an outdoor shower to clean off after a day of exploring. Ample storage both inside and out allows us to bring all the comforts of home, but not too much. There is even a port-a-potty, for those times when you drink too much tea at a Chinese restaurant and you just can’t hold it–so you make your dad pull over on the side of a busy California Highway so you can pee–but you can’t pee because your older brother is laughing hysterically at you and taunting you by repeating pee tea pee tea over and over. True story. I still have scars from that experience. Come to think of it I should bring the incident up with my therapist. Truly though, Marshmellow does have a little cupboard specially made for the potty and it is a much nicer one than the one my mother suggested I use that time in California. 

We had planned to leave on our epic road trip at the first of this month, but in the waning days of June we accepted the reality that we needed to scuttle the trip. I crossed the plan out in the calendar. Now what to do, we wondered. We certainly did not want to spend three weeks at home, that just sounded painful. Next we figured that we would go to Michigan to see Erin’s parents for a week–something, in normal years, we do every summer– and on the way home we could stop at a state park in western New York–something new for us. I penciled in our plan and booked a campsite. By the first of July we decided that the state park was not such a good idea. Ten days later as entire states along our route began to turn red with COVID we reluctantly gave up on the trip to Michigan altogether. 

The third time’s a charm they say, and tomorrow we will test that saying by hooking up Marshmellow and heading to the much-loved North East Kingdom for a week of mountain biking at Kingdom Trails and Burke Mountain. We also plan to try river tubing, do some star gazing and of course s’mores, because there always have to be s’mores when you are glamping ( camping with comforts such as beds, electricity, and heat). From there we will go east until we run out of road at the most eastern town in the country. It is not the epic western road trip we had planned, but epic is relative, and perfect isn’t fun. To that end and in hopes of bringing a bit of joy to those who read this blog, I am planning on writing from the road for the rest of the month. I am not entirely sure what that means but the Chronicles of a Wandering Marshmellow sure does sound exotic. 

Tally Ho!