Frigid pools and hot music
May 16, 2023 (Tue)
10:45 am Sequoia RV Park, Dunlap, CA
Okay, our tank that needs to be emptied (the black water tank) is emptied; the tank that needs to be full is jammed full of water, and our batteries are batteried up. We are ready to head into the wilderness! Raise anchor and cast off!
10:50 am St. Nicholas Ranch, Dunlap, CA
After an arduous trip of almost five minutes we are here!
“Here” is the California Autoharp (CAG) gathering. This is a convention for people who play the autoharp (like Gini) and other instruments (like Robert). This is the 20th year that CAG has been meeting and most folks are not here for the first time. (Looks like about 10% of us are first-timers.)
They get 65 to 70 people total, but the camp is broken into two parts:
“Early Birds” (although, we get better food than just worms): We show up on Tues and the Early Bird part lasts until Thursday. There are only two instruction sessions each day—one for beginners and one for intermediate players and there are a couple of concerts at night.
The “Regular Birds”: They show up on Friday and suddenly there are three instructional sessions going on at all times, and more concerts, and (we suspect) the cafeteria gets a lot more crowded.
The camp is held at St. Nicholas Ranch about 30 miles east of Fresno, which is where a superfluity of Greek Orthodox Nuns live (we looked it up: we thought it would be “gang” of nuns, but it’s “superfluity”). They’re in a nunnery up the road and we see them go by to tend their fields and flocks (sheep, mostly, we are told). They are dressed all in black and when they zoom by in their ATVs, they look like Ninjas heading out. We don’t mess with them.
We’re the first campers here, so we park near the showers on a nice level place that used to be a basketball court. At least we sincerely hope it’s a former basketball court…
Harvey on his camping spot
We’re in a canyon (western edge of King’s Canyon?). There are greenish hills above us and trees scattered around. The grass is brown and full of little sticker things that get in your sandals and cause you to do some modern dance steps when you walk and in a class today, we’ve also learned that the grass is full of ticks...
It gets up to 92° during the day, but fortunately this is California, so everything is air conditioned (except for Harvey)
There’s a big oak tree marked on the maps as “The Tree” and it provides a lot of shade and a few acorns We grab some chairs that some imprudent person left laying around and start playing. The breeze is blowing, we’re in tune, and life is working out just fine for us.
Gini playing under The Tree
There’s a beginner class this afternoon and Gini jumps right in. By the end of the class, she’s playing “This Land is Your Land” just like a beginner (while Robert is trying very hard not to point out that the song might better be called “This Land Used to be Somebody Else’s Land Until We Stole It”).
Video of Gini playing
After that we head off to dinner at the cafeteria (we’re actually pretty happy that we don’t have to worry about what to eat; the kitchen staff here is pretty good and there’s plenty of food).
After watching the sunset, we head to Harvey and stare at the stars before retiring into our only slightly overheated fiberglass can.
Sunset over Harvey (he’s on the left side about halfway up)
We pretty easily fall into a rhythm here. We won’t go into details, because we figure that not many folks need details on how to pinch-strum melodies on the autoharp (or lengthy discussions about how the pick-up notes on a song get made up for in the last measure).
There is a morning class and an afternoon class. Gini goes to both, but Robert only goes to the morning one, because he’s discovered: there’s a pool! Woohoo! It’s icy cold, of course, but between the outside scorching temperatures and the icy pool temperatures, on the average it’s comfortable.
There’s also time enough for naps and music practice and eating and more naps.
About the only thing of note with the concerts was that in the middle of one of the concerts the power went out. For a while, everybody joked that the group was too high energy and blew the fuses. Turns out that this entire power grid lost power and we’re very glad that we don’t live in this part of the world, because everybody who lives in Southern California just shrugs and goes, “Yeah, that happens.”
Fortunately, it turns out that acoustic instrument players can play acoustically just fine, and the group that was playing finished their set with no worries.
The power then came back on to be greeted by a loud groan from the sound guy. Seems the poor guy had a digital mixer. These are very cool because you can set up the microphones and speakers for multiple groups and have the mixer remember them. Us poor analog folks have to move the knobs for each group. But when the power went down, the digital mixer lost its mind, which means the sound guy lost three hours of carefully setting the sound “just so.”
The acoustic group playing acoustically
It might be a couple of days before the next Trip Log, because this is titled “Travels With Harvey” and right now it’s “Hanging Out With Harvey.”
Gini & Robert