The Road North

September 2 –

So Friday I sneaked out of work early – it’s easy on a construction site and I worked 10 hours straight the day before so I felt entitled. Honey had the boat all packed, the coolers ready, and had even done a load of laundry (after step-by-step instructions via phone from me), however, the duffle bag full of necessities was somewhat lacking. He didn’t have any pants or a hoodie, I forgot the flat sheet for the air bed, and I didn’t have enough clean shirts – ultimately neither did he since one got used a mop – more on that in a moment…
It was an easy drive of about 4 hours. I got a cup of coffee just to be safe – some of you may know that I don’t drink coffee: I like it in iced and frothy form, but it doesn’t like me generally. It was pitch black by the time we got there; I dodged a deer right after the ‘Watch for Animals’ sign and checked out two campgrounds before finding a spot. I’ll admit with some shame that we ultimately unhitched the boat and pushed it in to the space we chose. Neither of us could see if we were on the edge of a cliff, up against a tree, or clear for miles to back in. The campground was set up in a loop with all one-way traffic and spaces angled to ensure it. Since the boat and Rover together took up all of the gravel space, we set up the tent a little ways off back in the trees – there were some draw-backs to this: more on that in a moment…
Saturday morning we hiked down the path to the bathrooms – nice bathrooms too, in-door plumbing, real toilet and sink with toilet paper, no flies; they even had a shower! Anyway, a couple of spots down from us we met an old cat named Jimmy who thoroughly inspired us. He’s a world history teacher and country boy from Louisiana, been on the road on his motorcycle, Sun Stallion, for 40 days touring the US and all her wonders. Said at 55 he was in the best shape he was likely to be in from here on out, so now was the time. He’s also writing a book about his travels, got a journal about an inch and a half thick filled up already; now we’re in it. Showed us some pictures, including his ‘lucky’ picture of his two best friends, Betty and Bones (her husband), and mentioned something about working on a fire to heat his coffee. We floated back to our camp with wonder in our hearts and smiles on our faces. Here was the embodiment of our dream (one of them) – someone living without all the “requirements” of life and traveling for the sheer joy of it and to see it all before it’s gone. I went back down the hill with our single burner propane stove under my arm and a fresh bottle of propane to find Jimmy chatting with his neighbors across the road. When I said I had something for him he stared at me for a minute, then he asked me what I wanted for it. I told him I wanted him to have hot coffee on cold mornings and nothing else. He was touched and accepted, called me ‘ma’am’ the whole time, and even said he could buy his own propane. I waved him off, saying we had extra and that he should use it in good health and keep in touch when he could. Tithing does wonders for the soul; if you haven’t tried it, you should.
After breakfast we headed for the first of two lakes. It was a beautiful day, fish jumping everywhere, lots of anglers on the shores...we still didn’t catch anything. We came back to shore briefly to tighten a screw on our trolling motor and the ranger asked us to notify a couple kids on a float tube that they should come back to shore immediately. Apparently they “borrowed” the float tube thinking it was available for their use since it had been on shore for two days. They didn’t mean any harm, but we thought it was pretty funny. By then it was time for lunch and bait fishing is pretty boring though we’d resorted to it just to get a couple bites, so we headed for the dock to load up. Jimmy came down to see us, all suited up for the road. He said he’d left a gift for us on our camp table; it meant a lot to him, hopefully it would mean a lot to us. Upon returning to camp there was a letter, a photo, and a real estate brochure under a rock. The photo was his lucky one of Betty and Bones; the letter explained he wanted to gift us something in return but there was mostly junk in his saddle bags, so he gave us what meant the most to him and hoped it would bring us luck as well. The real estate brochure had cabins for sale in Idaho, one of which was circled and noted that he was thinking of buying it and we’d be invited up if he did. Currently the entire package is folded neatly in my glove box for luck and memories. We made lunch out of pineapple sausages (try them, they’re awesome!) on our two-burner camp stove. It normally lives at the bottom of our camping necessities tote – had to take everything else out to get to it.
About then our friendly ranger from that morning came by and told us all hell would break loose in about 2 hours. The clouds looked a little gray but I thought it was bit overkill. We tightened down all the tent stakes, closed everything up into something watertight and covered the firewood…and waited. The remainder of two hours past lazily with us sitting under a tree in the shade. There was some fun in the tent in there too, but mostly lazy sitting. When it did start it started slow – enough that we moved our chairs into the tent and took to reading, but not enough to be considered ‘hell breaking loose’ in any way. Not to worry – that came shortly after, at which point the tent was bending in gale force winds, the thunder was shaking the ground beneath us and the rain seemed more like a water fall than individual drops. It lasted four hours by my estimation, bucketing on us the entire time. It was during this time we discovered beyond a doubt that our 7-man, Hilton of a tent leaks, profusely. We kept scraping our stuff towards the center, at one point deflating the airbed to save it from getting wet, and setting all our pots – consisting of a coffee pot, soup pot, and one coffee cup – around us to catch drips. We also discovered that the ground we’d pitched on that looked so lovely and flat turned to mud with a cup of water, and since we had several, several cups of water, if you stepped into either end of the tent mud displaced beneath your foot. Honey went out a couple times to try to fix the rain cover, but to no avail, not to mention returning with about 5 pounds of mud stuck to his flip flops. It stopped just before bedtime, which was really good since I’d had to pee for the last two hours.
Morning dawned windy but clear. Everything was still there, including the Mexicans at a near by site who’d sung the same Vicente Fernandez song for 2 hours of the storm. Honey made the best breakfast bagel I’ve had in ages…and then came another ranger/weather man saying rain was imminent in hours. We debated strongly at this point whether we should stick it out, pack it up and do something else, or just go home. The ultimate decision, and the right one, was to unhitch the boat and go exploring. We took a 33-mile loop through some beautiful country with secluded campsites you need reservations to stay at and found a tree standing like a lone soldier in a field flat for miles. I also saw the best deer sign ever.
We ended up in this great little town, but the story on that will have to wait until another blog post for photographic project secrecy reasons. You fellow photogs should understand.
So after that we wound up in another great little town and spent some time in their train yard. I’m pretty sure we got into some places we shouldn’t have been, and at one point I was waiting for the junk yard dog to come barreling out from under something, but luckily none did. By then it was getting late. We’d been watching the clouds over what should have been our campsite all day – they’d been ominous and very gray. When we got back and checked the tent, all our bedding was wet. I made the decision right then and there that I was not sleeping in wet bedding. It started raining again while we were packing up, reminding me of Panguitch Memorial Day weekend. By the time we were loaded, we were both wet, shoes caked in mud, cold and hungry. We stopped to get food and hot liquid before driving less than an hour to a place we knew would have a room and rent it to us that late at night. As it turned out, we got the worst beds we’d ever had at our little hotel – we tried both beds with little comfort. We woke early to a colder morning than expected and drove home, arriving earlier than we normally do, but very tired and extremely satisfied…with great plans for our next adventure.

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