Monday, November 5, 2018

Can the good guys win?

Tomorrow is Election Day, and I’m worried. Trump himself is not on any ballot, but his supporters are seeking to win elections as governors, senators, school superintendents, and right down to the town clerk level. They realize the importance of organizing at the grass-roots level. If they want to force all of us to accept the alt-right, racist, anti-choice way of life, they have chosen the most effective way to do it.

Donald Trump is surely the worst president in our history. He may not be the most wicked (I’m not entirely sure), but his tweets and other far-reaching lies have reached far more voters than the messages of any other president have. And his narcissistic, materialistic attitude has been accepted as admirable even by people who should know better. Evangelicals should be emulating Jesus, not Trump! Silicon Valley workers should use logic to assess his statements about science. Middle-income taxpayers should realize that temporary tax cuts will only lead to worse conditions for everyone.

We liberals have begun to fight back, but we tend to tell the truth rather than deceive voters, which puts us at a disadvantage. Meanwhile, the MAGA group continues to besmirch Hillary Clinton long after she lost the 2016 election, to pretend that wretched immigrants fleeing terrible conditions are an imminent danger to the U.S., and to allow the EPA’s environmental standards to be lowered by denying scientific studies of climate change. Though I prefer to set the truth bar higher than they do, I have to admit that their despicable methods are effective. I hope fervently that there will be a Blue Wave tomorrow. However, it is all too likely that hatred and stupidity will win.


Wednesday, October 3, 2018


On Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park

So much for not blogging! Since saying goodbye to readers in my last post, I have thought of too many things to rave or complain about, and blogging is the easiest way to do it. So, the RovinCrone is back.

During the past few weeks my partner and I have spent most of our time in Washington state. Though it’s not all that far from California, we have been here only a few times. We just made up for it, and will certainly return again if possible.

Because he can handle RV travel much better physically than I can, he went on ahead, traveling up through northern California and along the Oregon coast. When he reached Seattle after a couple of weeks, I flew there to join him. An old friend from high school lives in Yakima, and she flew to Seattle at the same time and took us to lunch. Now, that’s friendship! It was wonderful to see Connie again after several years.

The next day my partner and I went into the city, which is very challenging in an RV, even in our relatively compact Winnebago View. The hills alone make driving difficult, and the heavy traffic adds to the problems. However, by holding back some broken branches of a low-hanging tree we were able to park in one of the few available street parking spots in the Space Needle area. There are no lots that can accommodate RVs! Though there are dozens of appealing museums in the city, we had to choose one in order to make our escape and find a place to stay for the night. Our choice was the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit,  which combines Dale Chihuly’s wonderful huge glass sculptures with living plants. At $23 each for old fogeys, it’s pricier than most museums, but well worth it. This was our splurge for the trip. (We always allow ourselves one per expedition.)

Following a night in a casino parking lot (during which I managed to be drenched in a rainstorm after getting lost in the maze-like casino and not having my keys with me), we drove to Anacortes, the home of some fellow View owners. Carl and Karen very generously allowed us to stay in their driveway for three nights. And what a driveway! Anacortes is on Deception Bay in Puget Sound,  so  the view from the driveway is stunning. It’s a birder’s paradise, too. Only a few minutes after arriving we saw a bald eagle and other birds. The whole Puget Sound area is one of the most appealing parts of the United States. Victoria, B.C., is right across the water, so we could have visited Canada on the same trip. However, one  of us (who will not be named to protect his guilt ) had neglected to bring his passport. Canada will have to wait for a future visit.

We had expected to drive from Anacortes to the Olympic National Park by retracing our route through Seattle, but learned that we could take a ferry from Coupeville to Fort Townsend, shortening the trip and sparing us another horrendous drive through Seattle traffic . We are both ferry fanatics anyway, so this was a no-brainer. The ferry for us and the View cost only $44 in all, a bargain. Luckily, the recent rains let up on that day, so we had a very enjoyable thirty-five minute ride across a bay.

Olympic National Park, like all the national parks, should be on every bucket list. Much of it stretches along lakes or the ocean, but the highest parts are up in the clouds. (One mountain is suitably named Mt. Olympus.)  We spent several days in the park, traveling counterclockwise around the perimeter. Hurricane Ridge is at 5240’ but seems higher because of the steep topography. And, it is as windy as the name implies. Glaciers can still be found here. Sadly, they may be gone in our lifetimes. The Heart o’ the Hills campground is a simple but comfortable place to stay, just a short drive below Hurricane Ridge.

Continuing around the park, we stopped at the Sol Duc River to watch the salmon run. It is fascinating and inspiring to see the fish jump over and over to reach a higher point in the river. Some of them are knocked back by hitting rocks, only to regain strength and jump successfully upstream.

On the Pacific Ocean side of the park, we almost despaired of finding a campground, as “the season” was ending and everything was closing down. Then we stumbled on the South Beach campground, where there were flush toilets (but no sinks, which seemed odd) and we had a site right on the beach. We spent two nights there, leaving only because the trip couldn’t last forever.

At the southwest “corner” of the park is the temperate rain forest I had long wanted to visit. Strolling along the Maple Glade rain forest trail, we saw huge ferns, six-foot curtains of moss dripping from tall trees, bracket fungi, and other rain forest plants. I can no longer walk far, so I was truly grateful for this half-mile easy trail.

All in all, this trip was an extremely good one. As I grow older and deal with declining health, I appreciate travel more and more, and hope this will not be our final RV journey.

Copyright 2018 by Carol Leth Stone

Saturday, August 25, 2018


For the past few years I've satisfied the urge to write by blogging as RovinCrone. It has been enjoyable in many ways, but the time has come to stop. I'm interested in trying a different genre and have a limited amount of time and energy for writing.
To all who have commented online here and by email, many thanks. I've greatly appreciated your messages.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


Photographers at Yosemite Falls
Too often when my companion is driving and I am peacefully looking out the passenger window he will suddenly shout, “Carol! Get a picture of that!” Of what? I look around wildly while searching for the camera or cell phone. By the time I figure out what he is looking at and aim a camera at it, it’s too late for even a grab shot. I’m chagrined, he’s annoyed. Sometimes he simply snatches the camera from me and takes a photo himself, while driving at 55 mph or so. This is not a good solution.

Taking photos on the run just isn’t that important to me. I do enjoy carefully composing a shot occasionally. Most of the time, though, I prefer enjoying the experience, or taking time to sketch a plant or animal.

Last summer we organized much of August around seeing the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21. It was a wonderful experience, and I managed to get a fairly good photo of it. However, just as it reached totality, others around me gasped. At the time I was trying to compose my photo. I suspect that I missed the full “diamond ring” effect, and wish I had simply watched in awe as the eclipse proceeded.

Can my attitude be taken too far? I have a good friend who is a world traveler. She comes back with tales of taking safaris and climbing  mountains, but without any pictures except some scenic post cards. She wants to concentrate on looking and experiencing rather than on taking photos. I wonder if she ever tries to recall some past trip and wishes she had used a camera rather than on relying on her memory. Like most people of our age, she must have memory lapses! Also, I would really like to see some photos she has taken herself rather than purchased.

Most tourists seem to rely heavily on photos. Busloads of camera-toting Asian tourists are a cliché, and every scenic overlook or art museum is clogged with people taking selfies and scarcely seeing anything but themselves.

There must be a happy medium. From now on I will try to make sure a camera is within easy reach, so I can at least make an effort to take quick photos. However, I will also insist on enjoying the views, not waste a lot of time on photographing them.
Copyright 2018 by Carol Leth Stone



Thursday, April 12, 2018


Tourists driving from Sacramento or the San Francisco Bay area toward Lake Tahoe often take Route 50. They pass through Placerville (a.k.a. Old Hangtown), then along an area called Apple Hill, filled with many orchards and vineyards. Apple Hill is extremely popular in the fall, when city folk bring their children to stroll through the orchards, sample a wide variety of apples, and buy pies and donuts. So popular that the highway may be crowded in September or October.

Before getting low on gas or groceries, Tahoe-bound people are apt to stop in Pollock Pines. It has everything they are likely to need before starting the beautiful but long drive to Lake Tahoe.

At the west end of town, they can take Exit 57 from the highway, the exit that leads to Pony Express Trail. Yes, this road actually is part of the historic nineteenth-century trail used to deliver the mail by young riders on horseback. Near Exit 57 is one of the original stations, now enlarged and converted to a restaurant called Sportsman’s Hall. Many other stations between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento survive, but mostly as ruins. Here, you can have a meal while surrounded by photos and artifacts of the trail. (It’s not for foodies, though. The menu is basic meat and potatoes, plus some good pies and pastries.)

Either by going back to U.S. 50 or by staying on the trail and continuing east for a few miles, you can reach the east end of Pollock Pines (Sly Park Rd., Exit 60 from the highway). Along the way on Pony Express Trail are two good motels, a Best Western and the Westhaven Inn. In what passes for a downtown, visitors can shop at a Safeway, a CVS, several small restaurants, beauty shops, auto supply stores, and gas stations. Note: The gas is a bit higher priced here than in Placerville, back 15 miles to the west, but it’s a long drive to the next station! A charming branch of the county library (open Tuesday through Thursday only) and a post office are useful stops for some visitors. Public restrooms are found in the stores and restaurants.

About six miles south of town on Sly Park Rd. is a large reservoir called Jenkinson Lake. Nine campgrounds here have spaces for tents and RVs. Fees for single-vehicle sites range from $32 to $80 a day.  Popular with both tourists and locals, the reservoir offers boating, kayaking, and hiking. You can look at the lake and check the weather on a webcam [] hosted by local realtors.

Once past town, and fortified with gas and food, you can begin the magnificent drive uphill to Lake Tahoe along the American River. Or, you may decide not to leave but to buy a home and settle down, as I did several years ago. Like me, many elderly people choose to retire here among the huge pine trees.

Copyright  © 2018 by Carol Leth Stone


Friday, March 16, 2018


Nearly a year ago I began having pain and weakness in my left arm. As I have advanced osteoarthritis, some pain is never surprising, but this worsened. A doctor prescribed a low dose of Norco that relieved the pain for a while. Then it returned. In the hope of strengthening my arm muscles I spent a month in physical therapy, but the pain continued. I continued taking Norco, then switched to Percocet, a stronger painkiller. Eventually an MRI showed a completely torn rotator cuff tendon and damage to the underlying bones that would require a shoulder replacement. Getting in appointment with a surgeon, scheduling the surgery, and getting clearances for surgery from various doctors took months; during that time I continued taking Percocet for the increasing pain.
Both Norco and Percocet contain opiates, synthetic derivatives of the opium found naturally in opium poppies. (The similar term opioid refers to both the natural and synthetic drugs.) Norco and Percocet also contain acetaminophen, the nonaddictive drug sold as Tylenol. The opiate in Norco is oxycodone, that in Percocet is hydrocodone. Both are prescribed routinely for pain following athletic injuries and surgeries.
As everyone knows now, the United States has an opiate epidemic. People who begin taking the drugs for pain can develop a tolerance for them, craving higher doses to be effective. They become addicted, taking the drugs not just to control pain, but also for insomnia or for generally feeling euphoric. Opiates are widely available and surprisingly inexpensive. (Having Medicare Part D, I have never paid more than a few dollars for a large supply.) Teens who want a high from drugs may simply raid Granny’s medicine cabinet to get a supply.
Short-term effects of opiates include sleepiness, pain relief, and euphoria. These result from the release of large amounts of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that links brain cells chemically and is responsible for desire and general feelings of happiness. Though those effects can be positive, dopamine can also lead to unpleasant side effects such as nausea, paranoia, and extreme drowsiness. Like alcohol, opiates can interfere with the ability to drive. When I was taking Percocet, I felt rather sleepy and stupid much of the time. Simple arithmetic and memory tasks were hard for me.
Long-term effects of opiates comprise constipation, abdominal bloating, vomiting, and damage to the brain and liver, as well as dependence (inability to feel well without the drug). Dependence can continue to addiction and to further increase in need for opiates.
Even addiction to Norco or Percocet can be serious, but if a person goes on to use the most potent opiate drugs such as heroin, the results can be catastrophic, even fatal. Norco and Percocet are swallowed as tablets, but heroin is injected into veins.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)[i], in 2016, more than 64,000 deaths were related to overdoses of opiates and related drugs (mainly Fentanyl).
After my shoulder surgery I received another vial of Percocet for the pain that followed. Not wanting to become an opiate addict, I cut back to the milder Norco after a couple of weeks. Now, five weeks post-op, I take only one Norco tablet a day, and am gradually cutting back even more. I often treat pain with ice packs, Tylenol, or a small glass of wine. As the healing proceeds I will soon be taking no opiates at all.
Though the outcome has been good in my case, I think it could have been better. Mild painkillers like acetaminophen or aspirin can control mild pain. (Large amounts of acetaminophen can cause liver damage, however.) Some people can benefit from cannabis or acupuncture. Ice packs or meditation are even better. If the opiates had been expensive, I would have been less likely to use them often. (I also have to take a very expensive drug for a pancreatic disorder, and am careful to buy only the minimum amount needed!) Medical providers and the DEA could benefit patients and have an effect on the opiate epidemic by heeding these suggestions.

Friday, January 19, 2018


I’m tired of hearing accusations by the elderly and by Millenials that the other group is hogging all the resources. My group (I am 80) is the frequent target of attacks on “entitlements.” Having paid for Social Security and Medicare for all my working years, I do feel entitled to use them now that I need them. They are not welfare! I’m also concerned about medical insurance in general. When I was young, healthy, and childless, I paid premiums that benefited the elderly, the sick, and families. How dare younger people object to helping me now?

Millenials have their own financial problems, of course. Tuition, even at state universities, is beyond the reach of many families now. (My family was extremely poor, but they managed somehow to put me through an excellent private college back in the fifties.) Competition is fierce for jobs that enable even well-educated young people to earn enough to buy homes and start families. For those with little formal education, life can be very hard.

It may seem at first that the divisions between the elderly and the young are simply a result of a shortage of resources.  Not everyone can have a bigger “piece of the pie.” However, the United States seems to have enough money to cut income taxes for wealthy individuals and corporations, to spend billions of dollars on military adventures, even to build an enormous wall between our country and Mexico.

How has the split between the “haves” and “have-nots” grown so wide? When I was a child, there certainly were wealthy and poor people, but there was an enormous middle class that had comfortable but unostentatious homes, enough food, and access to good educations. Today, in driving our RV around the country, I've seen huge areas where people are living in shacks or in tents under bridges, and other areas (often surrounded by high walls with locked gates) where elaborate homes are crowded together. What I think of as a middle-class home is quite rare.

In the years after World War II, many affordable suburban communities appeared, allowing returning G.I.’s to achieve what was then considered the American Dream—a house with two or three bedrooms, one or two bathrooms, and a small yard. (I have lived in both Park Forest and Daly City; those communities are still very livable today.)
Today, developers instead construct gated communities of very expensive homes that have few of the parks and other assets families need. They remind me of medieval fortresses.

On the other hand, our growing homeless population (including some of the Millenials and some of the elderly) cannot find decent places to live. People who have graduated from college and just entered the work force may be crammed into apartments or houses with many others; old people may end up in substandard nursing homes.

A country that can spend billions of dollars on a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants could invest much more on simple affordable housing, tuition grants, retirement communities, lower cost medical care, and other things that would benefit all age groups. The growing resentment between the elderly and the young is unnecessary, and we need to work together instead. We must resist our common enemy.

Saturday, November 25, 2017


We moved forward only a few inches--just far enough to get off the leveling blocks! But that was enough. There was a sickening crunch as the opened compartment door hit a post. The repairs cost thousands of dollars.

We are experienced RVers, and there is no excuse for making a mistake like that one. We began kicking ourselves for not adhering to our checklist, which of course includes making sure that all the outside doors are closed before even turning on the ignition.

The NPR program The Hidden Brain gave a great example of failing to use every item on a checklist: in 1935 a Boeing plane nicknamed the “flying fortress” crashed and burned, killing two pilots, because the crew had neglected to check every item on their checklist.[i] Incredibly, the control lock had been left in place.

True, checklists can be boring. In my years of editorial work, I got very tired of making a huge chart for each project and listing all the trivial steps that had to be followed between a manuscript and a book, but those charts saved me from making many mistakes, and I should have remembered their value.

Strangely, the things people forget are obvious steps. In proofreading books, I never overlooked a misspelling or misuse of an unusual word, but several times I failed to notice some problem with a simple word. Our brains tend to see what we expect to see.

One item people often forget to check is the TV antenna. Many times a tidied-up RV will pull out of a campground with the antenna extended. We try to chase the driver down but are not always successful. The results are probably not pretty.

Many RV websites contain valuable checklists. Every owner needs to choose the relevant items from those lists to create a computerized document that can be easily revised as needed.

Most important, the checklist must be printed and followed just before each trip (or before moving off the leveling blocks, as we discovered). No checklist is useful if it is sitting on a computer.




 Text copyright 2017 by Carol Leth Stone.

Thursday, November 2, 2017


For many of us, the RV life is a series of pleasure trips. We travel for a few weeks or months, economizing as much as we need to, then go back home for a while. We catch up on paying bills, doing laundry, returning library books, and other tasks. We upload photos of our travels onto Facebook, and print them for albums. My partner and I include the details of our travels in a possibly annoying annual holiday letter, also. It’s all a rather enviable life.

One subset of Rvers, full-timers, stay on the road nearly continually. Those I’ve met have fairly large rigs that make traveling easier. They may be equipped with washers and dryers, elaborate equipment for barbecuing, and other comforts. Full-timers usually establish an address in states such as Texas and Florida, where taxes are low. Their mail is delivered to those addresses and forwarded on to wherever the full-timers are staying for a few days. When questioned closely, they usually admit that they have some furniture and other possissions stored at a relative’s home or in a self-storage unit. In some sense, they have roots.

For some others, though, life on the road is not a choice. For a variety of reasons, they have no permanent homes. They live like nomads, following the sun or opportunities for work. Jessica Bruder has chronicled their lives in Nomadland, a rather frightening description of what it’s like to be “houseless,” if not actually homeless. Most of this group live in vans rather than real RVs, which means they have no bathrooms or real kitchens. They are on the move continually, as they are not allowed to overstay limits in campgrounds (when they are even lucky enough to be in a campground rather than in a Wal-Mart parking lot or other temporary spot). Bruder prepared for her book by living as a nomad herself for a time, befriending many of the loosely knit community.

Though the nomadic life has a certain romantic appeal, especially to the young and to environmentalists, Bruder demonstrates how difficult it is. These are not retirees who don’t need to work, and employers take advantage of them. They may take temporary jobs as “workampers” at RV resorts or in warehouses. The jobs are physically demanding and pay little; they also tend to disappear at an employer’s convenience.

Those of us who have a more comfortable RV life may find ourselves looking down at those living in worse circumstances, but it is all too easy for someone in the middle class to slip down the ladder. A few years ago, a study showed that more than 40 per cent of Americans would find it impossible to come up with $400 in an emergency. They live paycheck to paycheck, and have no savings to draw on. I have personally experienced the effects of catastrophic medical costs on those who thought they had done everything right. As Bruder shows, Nomadland may be the geography of the twenty-first century for many.

Text copyright © 2017 by Carol Stone

Monday, October 23, 2017


It’s so easy at home—every two weeks, at an ungodly hour on Thursday morning, an El Dorado Disposal truck picks up my yellow-lidded recycling can. The fee seems high for my single household, but I am allowed to recycle glass, plastic, newspaper, magazines, junk mail, and aluminum. On alternate weeks, I can put out a yard-waste can filled with grass clippings, small branches, and other yard waste. The only real trash goes into a nearly empty small cart for weekly pickup.

On the road, it’s a different story. We do keep a shopping bag in the shower for aluminum cans, but there isn’t space for plastic and glass, to say nothing of newspaper. (I do try to read newspapers at libraries or online when possible.) Sadly, I must throw away (but there really is no “away”) far too many items that might be recycled.

The NPS does have containers for recyclables in their campgrounds, and kudos to them. Occasional state or county parks provide for recycling, also. Private campgrounds, though, usually do not. Far too many bottles, cans, and other containers end up in landfills.

Availability is only part of the problem. I’ve seen bins clearly labeled as “bottles and cans” used for garbage. Why do people do this? Are they hostile to anything hinting at environmentalism? I don’t think they are illiterate, as simple pictures are on most containers.

Perhaps those of us who care about the environment should complain more. If KOA and other offending campgrounds realized that they are losing some campers by polluting the environment, it might have an effect.