Sunday, August 29, 2010

Quick Jaunt to Cedar Trails

A trip to Ohio has been on my agenda all summer, but every single weekend that we both had available was already filled. We proposed several dates, and all fell through. Lucky for us, some of the other plans fell through at the last possible minute on the first Friday of August. We both managed to take off work Monday for driving back -- we were set for a trip! Assuming everything goes right, that is.

Friday, after a full day of work (6:45pm), I scurried around collecting everything we might need for the trip and called up Chet and Lydia once I was on the road. I had no time to fire up the computer and plan the route, post my intentions on Twitter, or contact others to meet up with in Ohio. I had no time to double-check that I packed everything we needed. The plan was to pick up Percilla at 8pm and drive her clunker (which is better than my clunker) all night across several states to meet up with people we've never met before. What could possibly go wrong?

After being awake all night, I was lucky. I've pulled plenty of all-nighter's before. Sometimes I drag through the second day. Sometimes I feel sick. This time, as with only a few others, I actually felt awake the second day. I didn't even feel tired through the night until the sun was rising. After the sun was up more, I felt awake again. It's strange how that works.

We almost-blindly followed the GPS's recommendation for the fastest route, which resulted in a path that I would never want to drive in the daytime. Straight through Chicago, take a normally busy exit, follow a straight road with tons of stoplights through most of Indiana, then take alleys and county roads through small towns and rural areas until somehow ending up on the interstate we need.

We made it to mid-Ohio by 6:30am, jumped in Chet's car, and rode to Cedar Trails in southern Ohio. A stop had to be made at a small town store for some sandals and other forgotten supplies. We went from interstate, to nice roads, to skinny roads, to a really skinny gravel road. Cedar Trails is really tucked away. I like that.

The weather was perfect, but Cedar Trails still had a minimal crowd of around 25 when we arrived. Although crowds of naked people can be fun, having 60 acres to explore and most facilities nearly to yourself is an enjoyable experience as well. The exception to this was Saturday afternoon and evening, when the crowds doubled for the dart tournament and pool party. There was a good mix of people too, including 4 other couples our age and some teenagers who were having a blast in and around the pool area.

After arriving, the tent provided less entertainment than Chet was anticipating. Percilla and I work like a machine to get the tent raised, the air mattress full, the bed made, and everything moved into the tent. Perhaps the most entertainment he had was watching me pound in the tent stakes with my boot. Little did he know, I've done that ever since we've had a tent and it has always worked great -- so much so that I don't even bother packing a mallet. He at least helped in tying the side flaps down (something I never do), and in lending us a much better air mattress, pump, and lantern. We only spent nights in the tent. During the daytime, we all went to their air conditioned camper.

Saturday and Sunday had nearly the same routine. Breakfast, laze by the pool, lunch, some physical activity, supper, and an evening round of pool at the club or relaxing among tiki torches at the pool party. The food, generously provided by Chet and Lydia, was excellent! (It was better than what we normally eat.) Lazing around by the pool wasn't my favorite activity, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it. Percilla and I hid our pale Wisconsin skin under a large beach umbrella and some SPF 85. Lydia relaxed in the lounge chair under the sun, and Chet was blissfully gathering rays by floating in the pool. They're both well on their way to a chocolate bar tan. We at least got a little color during our stay, and it wasn't red.

The afternoons consisted of taking the paddle boat out for a spin around the lake, playing darts, playing bocce ball, playing pool, trying to get wifi from the camper, and hiking the trails. The paddle boat was fun, but the lake was a bit small for it and we were warned that it might bottom out in places. (The lake will have water added soon.) The bocce and horseshoe pits are excellent, with all needed items available. The pool table has everything too and is in great condition. We didn't try the badminton or volleyball, but I'm confident they're in similar shape.

The couple miles of trails were especially enjoyable for me. It's not often that I get to freehike with others and not have to worry about prudish textilers. The trails were well maintained, but that may change now that the person who created them has left. They were all nicely mowed during our visit. Trees were marked with orange tape, and fallen tree branches were placed on the sides to help identify the trail. At the top, there's a lovely prairie with wild flowers, horses (sometimes), and a lookout across a meteor crater.

It was apparent that I was at home on the trails. I could glide through them all with little effort. To be fair, everyone could keep up with a good pace, but I was the least tired and could've gone multiple times in a row. I was also the one spotting the wildlife, with one exception being a spider on a web that Lydia nearly ran into. When the four of us were hiking on Sunday, I was calling things out. "Look -- there's a tree frog!" "Look -- there's a baby snake! Don't step on it!" Saturday, when Chet and I first went on the trails, I spotted the only wildlife. "Look -- there's a skunk only 15 feet away with it's tail in the air!"

We stopped dead in our tracks. There was absolutely no scent, so it didn't feel too threatened yet. It was also facing us, which is a good side to be on. We slowly crept down the trail to get by it and it also made a slow retreat into a trench. Whew! We didn't even want to consider the consequences if we would've been sprayed. Chet and I would've been confined to the tent and shower stalls, and everyone would be avoiding us. The car ride home would've been unpleasant too. We might've even used up all the water getting that scent off.

Water is an issue at Cedar Trails. Due to some obscure regulations, water needs to be trucked in from the city for public use. The owner does this himself -- a few times each day he'll take a truck with a big tank in the bed to the city, fill it up, and unload it into large tanks around the resort. I'm unsure if the water can be considered drinkable, but none of us chance it. The locals know about the water situation and really try to minimize their use of it. Day-trippers might not know. My suggestion is that a sign should be posted informing everyone that water gets trucked in and to ask that they minimize use of it. I took navy showers while I was there.

The bathhouse at Cedar Trails is absolutely brilliant for the purpose it serves. It's the best designed bathhouse I've ever seen. The picture on the website shows the front. It has an entry door on each side, with large custom windows to let light in. The inside has two open showers between the doors which allow easy access between sides if the showers aren't in use. There is no male/female designation. There is no ceiling, just the roof, so the window light goes everywhere. There is a private toilet stall on each side, along with a regular sink, mirror, shelf for putting things on, and a large sink for washing dishes or clothes. The lights by the sink and mirror are on a 15 minute timer. Additionally, you'll notice on the picture that there is something between the doors. This is a whole-building 75 minute timer, which controls power to the lights, hot water heater, small heater (when needed), small air conditioner (when needed), and ceiling fans. Lastly, cleaning supplies are readily available with a sign saying "Please clean up after yourself. You're mother doesn't live here." Based on how clean it was, I'd have to say that people adhere to this guideline.

Another wonderful idea they tried was a Snorkel hot tub. (Snorkel is famous for having a wood-fired aluminum stove that sits right in the water.) The first problem they had was keeping the temperature comfortable, which they eventually mastered. The second problem couldn't be fixed. As people get in and out of the tub, the water level would constantly get low. Low water is a problem for the Snorkel stoves because if there is not enough water around them, they can overheat and melt. Their conclusion is that the Snorkels are great for home use, but not as a resort centerpiece. I plan to buy one for our personal off-grid hot tub.

Cedar Trails has a certain kind of charm that is rare to find. The couple that purchased and developed the land have put their hearts and souls into creating a high quality nudist retreat. As far as I can tell, they've succeeded. Percilla and I had a great time, with great company, and are looking forward to a return visit in the future. Maybe next time I can plan things a little better!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Stories from VVRC (Part 2)

This story is from a new guest blogger. See part 1 for details.


Greetings! Call me "Bob" (of "Alice and Bob" fame, the ballroom dancing couple mentioned a few times in this blog). The Academic Naturist asked me if I would like to contribute anything as a guest blogger, so I thought I would relate an experience from last summer at VVRC, and the ruminations resulting therein.

Alice and I are not members of VVRC but we visit every chance we get during the warmer months. Valley View was our first nudist experience, and it was the people we met there, more than anything else, that made it a pleasant, easy going experience for us. We have been to several other places since then (Sunny Haven in IN, Cypress Cove in FL, Turtle Lake in MI, etc.) but for coziness, relaxation and economy of travel time, we always keep coming back to Valley View... and primarily because of the people there.

And speaking of people, I want to relate a story involving a small child I'll call "Donna" ("Carol" is already taken by a friend of ours - see A.N.'s entry regarding last February’s winter party). Donna is about six years old and typically plays with any other children who happen to be around. When she's void of playmates her own age, she'll hang out with Alice, whom Donna thinks is "really really cool." Donna's mother sometimes worries Alice feels put-upon, but my wife is a trooper and Donna is not terribly high-maintenance.

On with the tale: last summer, when Donna was five, Alice and I stuck around for the monthly "Munchie Mixer," a production at the clubhouse put on by the VVRC members wherein they feed the guests in an effort to get to know them better. Alice and I really enjoy these because it gives us an opportunity to meet any new visitors we may have missed during the day with our typically busy schedule of reading by the pool, tanning by the pool, swimming in the pool, chatting with friends by the pool... you get the idea.

This time in particular we had pizza at the Mixer. Alice got our plates, found seats to settle into next to some newbies, and to no one's surprise Donna appeared with her plate stacked high with slices and announced: "Hi, Alice! I’m gonna sit by YOU!"

So we ate and conversed and little Donna occasionally offered up observations involving the pool, Barbies, and some of the VVRC members' pets that are nice to play with. After a while, I felt the call of nature and excused myself to head off to the men's room.

Sidebar, now, as I explain something about the layout of VVRC. The acreage is primarily populated by campers, some permanent, the majority summer-only. There is a small but respectable camping area on the property, over by the clubhouse, which is at the opposite end of the land from the entrance, where the office is located. While the clubhouse has refrigerators, stoves and running water, it does not have restrooms. For that sort of facility one has a choice of

A) The pool house
B) The showers - located more or less in the center of the property
C) The outhouses located right outside the clubhouse

Being a civilized and relatively normal socialized North American male of the 21st century, I decided on option "B" when I left the clubhouse to tend to my needs; it was closer than the pool house and had the much preferred feature of soap and running water for afterwards.

So I started on my way down the gravel path to the showers when I suddenly heard a familiar little voice cry out: "Hey! Hey! Bob!"

I turned around and saw little Donna, a smear of pizza sauce on her little face, running towards me with some urgency.

"What’s up?" I asked.

"You know, you can go there." She declared, pointing to the outhouses.

"Yes, but I would much rather go there," I replied, pointing to the showers and wondering if I would have to explain the importance of personal hygiene, especially when about to handle food.

From our vantage point, Donna could only see the entrance to the men’s room.

"But that one's for guys. Anyone can use those!" She retorted, pointing again to the outhouses with a little more emphasis.

"And that's okay, Donna, because I am a guy."

She looked at me blankly, for a moment, and then lowered her gaze and stared at me for a second.

"Yeah! You are!" she said, looking me in the face, again. "Okay! Bye!"

And she turned around and went back into the clubhouse to hang with the wife.

I continued on my way and for the briefest moment I was a little disturbed to have been scoped by a five year old... and then realized her attitude was the same as a kid picking up a hamster to see if its a boy or a girl: she was just checking to verify my statement.

The implications are rather interesting. Donna has been involved in nudism all her life. She is fully aware of the physical differences between men and women. So much so she does not really think about gender differences when communicating with people. It seems to me that without cultural gender markers (of which clothing, in American society, is a major set), to a growing nudist child primary and secondary sexual characteristics are about as common and mundane as fingers, noses, and eyebrows. To them, it's all just "people parts" and don't matter unless they are taught they should... such as which restroom one should use.

And in a time and place where we as a nation are, at least nominally, striving for gender equality, doesn’t it seem nudism is the best thing possible to teach our children so they can respect themselves and others?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stories from VVRC (Part 1)

A quick story from me, and a quick story from a new guest blogger in part 2.

We spent 4th of July weekend at VVRC and had a great time, as usual. We met up with Alice and Bob again and had perfect weather this time around. (Last time, it was opening weekend and very cold.)

A few days prior to our trip, I had a frightening message come in from Bob: "Are you the Academic Naturist?" My first thought, as usual, is "what did I write and will he be angry about it?" Most people, when they stumble upon my blog, always seem to find something that I've done wrong and get upset about it. I was afraid that I had lost some good friends, again.

To my surprise, Bob thought it was neat (and sufficiently anonymous). He also admitted to being a writer. Hmmm... I have an idea forming.

Quite frankly, I've been too busy. The project at my day job has kept me working anywhere from 50 hours to 75 hours per week over the last six months, with a deadline that resembles a carrot on a stick that I can never quite catch. Spare time is at a premium, and my priorities often leave blogging in the dust. With that in mind, I asked Bob to write up a story and he eagerly accepted.

The intent was that he'd write the story of our visit. But, the story of our visit brings forth some very touchy subjects that he didn't dare write about. I don't blame him a bit. Instead, he wrote a story from the past with a unique observation and conclusion that easily fits into my "academic" category. His story is part 2, posted tomorrow. I hope he sends more my way, whenever inspiration hits.

Back to those touchy subjects... I've been very indecisive about telling that story, too. However, I'm one of the few naturist bloggers who take pride in keeping a journal of my naturist adventures on a public blog. The journal would have a large hole in it if I didn't write this story, so here it goes!

We met a couple who shared a cabin with Alice and Bob. We didn't recognize them, but they recognized us and didn't say anything that night. (Don't you hate when that happens!) Leaving many details aside, they broke the resort rules by getting frisky in the shared cabin fully knowing that they were not alone and not hidden from view. It's not as bad as you may be thinking, but bad enough to reasonably warrant a complaint. They had a strict talking-to from the resort staff. (Thank you VVRC staff -- keep up the good work of cracking down on people like this!) However, they were not kicked out. The female left for work, and the male awkwardly remained in the cabin.

The male told Bob all about knowing us. Bob relayed this information to me. The female works near Percilla, and the male works near me. We didn't care, but apparently this frightened both of them.

The male approached Percilla and I while we were sitting on the steps in the pool. I knew it was the start of a delightful conversation when he started with: "I've always believed that the best defense is a strong offense." I knew the outcome of this conversation, and I knew it wouldn't be pretty for him. He continued by telling us that he has a very high-ranking position, that nobody knows they are naturists due to their bosses/coworkers being extremely against that sort of thing, that the female knows everyone Percilla works with, that he knows everyone I work with, and that he'd like to keep the naturism thing a secret. I promised that I wouldn't tell anybody, simply because I'm a nice guy and respect his wishes. He was being as polite as possible while obviously threatening me.

He then asked, far too late in the conversation, if we've told anyone that we're naturists. Percilla spoke up and said "everyone -- friends, family, coworkers, even my boss who knows I'm here today." He responded in udder disbelief, "Really!!!?" I chimed in with a similar line. At that moment, he knew he had absolutely nothing on us. Indeed, the best defense is a strong offense. He'd s--t a brick if he knew I was a blogger and was telling the story to a global audience.

Later on, he approached Percilla when she was alone and asked for our contact information. She only pointed him in my direction. A while later, with PDA in hand, he sat next to me and asked for our contact info and he'd give us his. I simply said, "We'll see you here." He froze for a moment, said "OK -- fair enough", and left.

There's a great lesson in this story, and it's about information management. If he had never said that he knew us, we would've never known. Instead, he told me enough about himself (while making threats) that I could hop online and find his full name, address, phone number, workplace, position, and just about anything else that is public information. What does he have on us? Our first names and where we work -- pulling more information would be difficult, but not impossible. Our workplaces don't publish a directory publicly.

There's also something to be said about respect for "closet naturists". Most naturists will not repeat names or talk about others while in the textile public. Even if we knew our neighbors or coworkers were naturists, we wouldn't repeat it to others unless we knew it was OK. It's a sort of naturist ethical guideline. If someone is worried about it, a confirmation of respecting privacy is all that is needed -- not idle threats.

Despite that one couple, we still had a great time at VVRC! Great weather, great company, and an entertaining campground. We'll be back soon!

Friday, August 6, 2010

What's In a Name?

In textile areas, people identify each-other with names. In naturist areas, people also identify each-other with names. But, for a variety of reasons, naturists don't want their names in front of a textiled crowd. Names can be used to link people to their work, hobbies, or interests. Some of those may conflict with naturism.

One of the biggest challenges I've faced while blogging is the use of names. Some naturists have their full names (and sometimes pictures too) on all kinds of naturist websites. A search engine query makes it readily apparent that they are naturists and proud of it. Others only go by first names, which therefore obfuscates search results. Some may use fake names, and still others choose to never use a name at all. With all that said -- what name can I use if I'm writing about them?

I've tried all sorts of things. I started with generic phrases such as "my girlfriend", "nice couple", "ballroom couple", and "slightly-crazy 40 y/o motorcycler". I've heard complaints about NOT using names, as-if I don't really know the person. I've also heard complaints about continuing to use the phrase "my girlfriend" because people think it's somehow derogatory. Sorry, but she doesn't want to use her real first name on this blog. Her newly chosen name is Percilla.

When I started writing the Mazo Manor series, I opted to copy the Meerkat Manor TV show by giving people nicknames that somehow matched a unique trait. In all honesty, this worked great! Maybe even too great! I found it easier to remember the nicknames than the actual names. Which, of course, presents a problem when you want to call out their name at the beach. Also, I heard complaints about some of the names. They were never meant to be derogatory but some figured out a way to become offended.

More recently, I've been using "standard names" on a temporary per-post basis. Alice, Bob, Carol, Dave, Eve, and so on are commonly used in research papers instead of "Person A", "Person B" and so on down the alphabet. This worked fine for a few academic-style posts, but it recently broke when I tried to apply it to real people. The couple we met who were first named Alice and Bob became good friends, and the names have therefore become permanent.

So what should I do in the future?

The standard at most venues is to go first-name-only. The problem with first names is that other naturists know them, and therefore I shouldn't use real first names if I want to keep people as anonymous as possible.

Even if I switch up the names by assigning random ones, there may be some sort of false identity that arises. I describe a person with the name Alice, and it sounds like an Alice that you may know. That could end up bad.

People don't like real names, generic phrases, or nicknames. Standard names won't last long. I'm running out of options here...

Should I switch to assigning unique numbers, like the government? Hello, 123-456! Should I develop a cryptographic hash? Here's my friend, A4B3C2D1. Other blogs chop down names to only the first letter, so Alice would be called "A". I don't like any of these options either.

So what is your preference? I'm accepting any and all suggestions!