If you’ve read my earlier posts “Why We Will Never Live in a Tent,” parts 1 and 2, you know that Jerry and I were both well and poorly prepared for our first camping adventure in the lush and verdant (i.e, soaking wet) Green Mountains of Vermont.
|THE FORGOTTEN FOX|
Returning home damp, tired, and somehow still happy, we determined that our next camping trip would be a complete success. We were confident that Jerry would actually sleep in the tent.
We began looking for a larger tent. Did you know that you can get a tent with three rooms? Imagine. Jerry and I could each have our own room. Overnight guests. Endless possibilities. But we finally decided to stick with our 3-person tent — as long as it was just the two of us. If we were going to share with anyone else, we would then buy a larger tent. We did however pick up a battery operated table lamp for Jerry. It would double as a bedside reading lamp and a nightlight.
So, we made plans with Blair and Marie, avid campers and fully equipped themselves, to head up to Maine (they from Boston, we from Guilford) where they reserved adjoining campsites at campgrounds right on the Saco River. They had been there before and loved it.
|ON THE SACO RIVER|
We met in town and drove over to the campgrounds together. The owners lived in a little house right on the property. It was a charming place and much less wooded than our digs in Vermont, which meant Jerry would feel much less claustrophobic and stressed. Our campsites were large and perfectly located. We could walk our canoe down to the river in minutes and be peacefully away.
Marie and Blair knew the perfect local place to hit to pick up our fresh steamers (clams) and lobster. So, we planned out our meals. Steamers the first night. Lobster the next. After that, it really didn’t matter what we had. The weather was perfect. Comfortable. Not hot. The mosquitoes were healthy. But we had a 10 x 15-foot screen house and I had about a dozen cans of Deep Woods OFF. This time, we knew we were ready for anything.
|THE ALL-IMPORTANT S’MORES|
Blair and Marie were also extremely well prepared. They couldn’t take any chances. The last time they were there, Marie had put a bit of a fright into the owners of the campgrounds.
Marie is Boston born and raised. And sometimes – just sometimes – her way of pronouncing things can be a little confusing to non-Bostonians. During their first stay on the Saco River, she and Blair had purchased fresh lobsters and prepared the perfect meal. They thought they had brought everything they needed, including all the side dishes. To their dismay, just as they sat down to eat, they discovered they had forgotten one very important element; and they couldn’t possibly enjoy the meal without it. So, Marie, headed over to the owners’ house to see if they had what was needed.
When the woman answered the door, the effervescent and ever-charming Marie, quickly explained about their beautiful meal of “lawbstuh and drahn buttah” and wine and everything else. “We remembahed everything except the fox,” she said. The woman took a step back and just stared dumbly at Marie. Marie noticed that the woman seemed confused, so she tried to explain again. “Imagine, we planned it all. We even baked potatahs and vegetables on the fiyah.” How can you have lobstah and vegetables without any fox?” This time the woman took another step back and looked toward the other room, obviously trying to find her husband. They had fox-eating lunatics from Boston staying at their campgrounds. Then Marie thought, ‘this woman doesn’t appeah to undahstand what I’m saying.’
She tried again, very slowly, while acting it out with her hands, “You know, like KNIVES and FOX.”
This time around we had plenty of knives and FORKS for anyone who should happen to drop by and Marie was happy to slip by the owners’ house without being recognized.
|MARIE AND FRIEND|
Blair and Marie also warned us about the animals that wandered the campgrounds. We needed to be vigilant and keep our food securely stowed. There was a donkey that made the rounds during the day. He and Marie were of course good friends. And she didn’t even have to give him any food for him to like her. She just has that way about her. But the raccoons were voracious and extremely clever. We assured Marie that she didn’t need to worry about us, we would keep everything safely locked inside the car (the one with the matching canoe on the roof).
We set up camp, pitched our two tents and our screen house, and we headed to the local clam shack to buy a load of what turned out to be the best steamers we had ever had. We had a perfectly relaxing evening and then at around 11 p.m., we settled down to sleep.
Zip. Zip. Zip. Zip. Zip.
I was in my sleeping bag with my back to Jerry — to avoid the glare of the battery-operated nightlight. But I couldn’t ignore the constant zip and unzip.
Zip. Zip. Zip. Some muttered curses. Zip. Zip.
Then he unzipped his sleeping bag completely and I heard him make his way to the tent flap.
Zip. Zip. Zip. Zip. Some more loudly muttered curses and back to the sleeping bag.
Zip. Zip. Mutter.
A very noisy stumble to the tent flap again. Zip. Zip.
Back to the sleeping bag.
“Are you having a problem?” I sarcastically queried.
And then Jerry sat up, stared right at me, and let fly with a litany of profanity. ‘How could anyone be this…! “I’m not a mummy!” “What the…!” “There’s not enough room in this … bag!” “Why in…” “I’m either too hot with the bag zipped up or too cold with it zipped down.” “I can’t bend my legs!” “There’s no air in this… tent!”
Jerry, who always said, “Oh fudge” when he was annoyed was using words I didn’t think he even knew the meaning of.
Amazingly, he didn’t jump in the car. We talked a bit about what we would go out and buy the next day. Jerry had a brilliant idea. He could zip our two mummy bags together and then he’d have a really nice sleeping bag that would allow him to sleep in any position he liked. We would then just have to get a new sleeping bag for me. And I wasn’t picky (well, everything is relative).
We talked for a few hours and finally fell asleep. We know we fell asleep because we were awakened some time later — it was still dark — to the clattering of pots and pans. It sounded like a rowdy group was having a party. There was a lot more noise. We heard Marie’s raised voice and a bunch of scurrying. “It’s OK, Blair,” she called, “I got it fixed.” So we went back to sleep.
|HE LOOKS LIKE A CAMPER|
The next morning, we were entertained by Marie’s story of the raccoons’ late-night raid of our screen house. Jerry and I had kept all our food locked in the car. Marie and Blair had left their huge cooler in the screen house. But, they figured it was safe because they had stacked on top of the cooler the heavy boxes filled with pots and pans and other cooking gear. The raccoons wouldn’t be able to move all that.
Maine grows strong and robust raccoons.
The gang knocked over the boxes and threw pots and pans everywhere. It looked like they had used the Tupperware lids for frisbees. They then easily lifted the lid of the cooler and had a party. Marie found empty containers of gourmet dip scattered all over the woods. The chips were gone too, but it didn’t look like they had been eaten together. What a waste; the pairings had been so carefully planned.
We had one of those amazing camping breakfasts, eggs, bacon, muffins. We went into town and bought me a really ugly, rectangular, cotton flannel sleeping bag — it was all we could find. We had lunch in town. When we got back, Jerry zipped the two mummy bags together and modeled for us. He looked like the Michelin Man (or a blue Pillsbury Doughboy). But he felt comfortable and knew he would sleep well that night. We canoed in the afternoon. It was a perfect day that culminated with the best lobster dinner (no fox). And s’mores.
We headed off to bed just as it started to rain. We hadn’t been expecting that. Oh crap! But, our campsite was level and clear. No puddles formed. No mud trails.
Jerry, however, had had enough. The rain made him feel even more claustrophobic. He remained calm, but said he just couldn’t do it. He was going to find a hotel for the night and come back in the morning. I could handle that. He was behaving rationally. The weather wasn’t that bad. The roads were wide open out here and there were plenty of places to stay. So I wished him well as he drove off and I went back to a very comfortable night’s sleep.
Now, I haven’t mentioned this, but for a few years at that point, I had been having a problem with bursitis. It was worst in my hips. It was just one of those things I developed young and struggled with for a number of years until I learned how to exercise it into abeyance. This camping trip was during the time the flare-ups were at their most annoying. Damp ground could be a problem. Well, I woke that morning and could barely walk. I moved like I needed both hips replaced.
Jerry returned happy and refreshed. He pronounced, “I’ve decided I am going to sleep here tonight no matter what.”
I said, “Well, I was about to tell you that my hips are killing me. I had planned on joining you in the hotel tonight.”
“Oh, good!” he said. He didn’t even try to hide his relief.
Thanks to Jerry, I have at times over the years appeared to others to be “the calm one, the sane one, the one who doesn’t sleep with a nightlight.” (Yes, I am actually quoting here.) That is one of the reasons — among so many better reasons — that I stay with Jerry. He can make me look calm, sane, and in no need of a nightlight when, in reality, he has been my nightlight for more than 29 years.
|THE BLUE PILLSBURY DOUGHBOY|