Thursday, May 28, 2009




I traveled to Glen Rose, Texas, for the Lonestar Dulcimer Festival. Wonderful dulcimer, mandolin, fiddle, music for three days in a tree-shaded park. An incomprehensible amount of planning goes into a three-day music festival with workshops, arts and crafts fair, contests, old-fashioned square dance, but it all comes off as relaxed...and so relaxing. The amazing Dana Hamilton, champion dulcimer player, is master of ceremonies, performs with the Sweet Song String Band, sits in with other musicians AND serves as square dance caller. How does he do it all? I loved every minute of it.

I also loved the campground, an old-timey private campground with a gorgeous, enormous pool bordered by intricate rockwork. The pool, OakdalePlunge, was dug in 1925 by mules! The young mother of the family camping next to me said her grandparents honeymooned at Oakdale Park in the 1950s, and spending time in the campground is a three-generation family tradition.

The Oakdale Plunge

For rent are cabins, most constructed with intricate mosaics of native limestone. I assume many were build during the Depression, when many public works projects showing such attention to detail were also built.

Intricate rockwork everywhere

My camping equipment is still in the ultralight backpacking and bicycle mode. I use a tiny brass gasoline-fueled Svea 123 stove and a 2.3-pound Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight tent. Such a tent is necessary for self-contained trekking, but not comfortable for car camping. I had such a great time, I ordered a large Coleman tent upon return home that Sunday evening.

Mortimer at his ease

The Monday after the festival, the veterinarian delivered some bad news about my gentle 18-year-old coonhound, Mortimer. He has a brain tumor. At that moment, pampering Mortimer became my uppermost priority. I planned to return to Oakdale Park with Mortimer and the new tent.


We drove the 150 miles to Glen Rose again the very next Saturday, and spent a wonderful weekend as the only tent campers in Oakdale. Mortimer immediately adopted the tent as his den.

Mortimer adopted the tent as his den

We climbed on the rocks in Big Rocks State Park, walked along the road, and just relaxed at the tent campground, which we had to ourselves, as other tent campers had been chased away by Saturday’s rain. As a coonhound, he has a keen sense of smell, and just loves tracking the path of animals through the brush, although he now has some trouble walking.

Oakdale Park, absent its rows of RV behemoths, hearkens back to a simpler time, when leisure was more about relaxation and nature and less about high-tech activities. The playground equipment includes a child-driven carousel, an old red FarmsAll tractor, and a collection of enormous half-buried rubber tires. There is a building dedicated to carving, an old-style amphitheatre, an enclosed meeting room, and several screened in ramadas.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Salsa (dancing) spice of life

Salsa, merengue, bachata: my new new-found Latin loves.
Through the virtual word-of-mouth of Facebook, I learned a student in my engineering program, Angel, was taking salsa lessons. Joining this group, with its cadre of international graduate student students and outstanding instructor, a competitive salsa dancer, has recharged my energy in life.

Amazingly, the instructor, out of the goodness of his heart, donates both his instruction and the use of his danceroom to the group. (Janet Evanovich fans: the instructor is a Ranger look-alike.) The group throws occasional Friday night dance parties. The dancing of the advanced students is variously like poetry in motion or, in one case, like catalytic reaction. So exciting and inspiring.
At first I was self-conscious being the oldest student in the class, but found that as I've relaxed, I've become a [slightly] better dancer. For instance, following the man's lead is much easier when relaxed.

I've always admired--an envied--good dancers of every type. Although I am neither a natural dancer nor a particularly coordinated person, I'm thrilled at this entre into the world of Latin dancing.

Miguel and Jan

Miguel and Angel

JC (instructor) and Anita