Saturday, December 11, 2010

Why We Will Never Live in a Tent — Part 2

Jerry was lost in the Green Mountains of Vermont.  Judy was sound asleep.  And I was being swamped by a mini mudflow.  I grabbed everything around me and made a quick dash for the screen house.  We had dropped the plastic side panels before we went to bed.  The inside, although damp, remained clean and dry.  I spread my wet belongings around the interior.  In the damp, there was no hope of their drying, but it seemed to make sense at the time.  We had a little clock in the screen house.  It was 5:30 a.m.

I decided I would make a nice hot pot of coffee.  I grabbed the pot and filled it from the water jug.  Smart campers don't leave their food stores out at night to attract wild animals.  So, I realized I'd need to make a quick dash to the car to get the coffee...  The car.  Jerry had the car.  I was really worried about him and hoped he was alright.

OK.  I will boil myself some water and pretend it's coffee, I thought.  I just needed to light up the cook stove.  We were smart and had kept the matches safe and dry...  In the car.  Jerry had the car.  He had me worried.  I hoped he wasn't in a ditch.

Judy continued to sleep.  Well, at least I could take a nice hot shower.  That would make everything seem better.  I took a large green trash bag and cut a whole in the bottom.  I grabbed a slightly damp towel, popped the trash bag over my head like a poncho, threw on my baseball cap and ran down the muddy hill in the driving rain to the little building containing the showers and toilets.  I was worried about Jerry, but we weren't far from Bennington.  He should be fine.

I stripped down and stepped under the shower head.  That was when I remembered the slot and the knob.  The slot was where you inserted the quarter that would enable you to turn the knob that would produce the hot water.  Crap.  I didn't have any change.  I would have to get dressed, throw on my trash bag poncho and baseball cap, and get some change.  From the car...  Jerry had the car.  I worried.

The jerk had better not be in a ditch.

I got dressed, put on my trash bag and cap, and went back to the screen house.  For the next two hours, I drank cold water from a brand new enamel cup and pretended it was hot coffee.  It continued to pour.  The campground was slick mud.  At 7:45, Judy arose.  She came running in refreshed and smiling.  Then she noticed the car was gone, "Where's Jerry?" she asked.  I told her.  She said a hot cup of coffee would be great.  Had I made any.  I told her.  Oh. She sighed,  a hot shower would feel so good.  I told her about the quarters.  Finally, I poured her a cup of pretend coffee and we both sat staring through the screen at the pouring rain.  We worried about Jerry.

We agreed that if he hadn't gone into a ditch, he was going to wish he had. 

At 8:20, the rain miraculously stopped.  The sun burned through the remaining clouds.  We sat in a warm mist.  We lifted the rest of the panels on the screen house and peered through the trees at the deserted campground.  Around the curve appeared the Trooper, canoe on its roof, with Jerry behind the wheel.  He pulled up in front of our tent and hopped out wearing fresh clothes and a glowing smile, the obvious result of a good night's sleep.  He had shaved.  His hair was perfectly combed.  He was beaming with contentment.

Judy and I sat calmly, both imagining what we were going to do with the body.

But, Jerry then produced a paper bag from behind his back.  Hot coffee and a dozen donuts.  "Hey," he said.  "I have a great idea.  There's a motel just up the road.  Let's go check in.  You can take showers and we can go out for a nice breakfast.  We can come back here and 'play-camp' for lunch and dinner, and then we can get a dry night's sleep at the motel tonight."  He said he hadn't noticed the motel last night when he drove into Bennington but had spotted it on his way back this morning.  He had stayed at a very upscale place in town, but this would be "just fine" for us.

Well, he was right.  It was definitely fine.  The rains returned that evening right after dinner.  We left everything at our campsite (except for the food, the matches, and the money) and spent the next two nights eating Fig Newtons and watching TV. 

Although the canoe had never left the top of the car, we were proud of what good campers we were.  We may not have slept in the tent after the first night (Jerry, at all).  But we cooked our meals, washed up, managed to build a campfire before the rains started again (I can't for the life of me remember where we found wood dry enough to burn), and enjoyed Smores before heading to our motel.

For the next time — there would, of course, be a next time — Jerry and I just needed to consider getting ourselves a bigger tent and a battery operated nightlight.

The story of our camping adventure with Blair and Marie on the Saco River in Maine during the 1992 Democratic National Convention, well-fed raccoons, and why we never bought a six-person tent.

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