On Sunday, I was chatting with R and he asked me how I was doing. For some reason, maybe because it was R, maybe because he sounded genuinely interested, maybe just because of the space I was in, I opened my mouth to answer, “Great,” and instead, “I’m really getting tired of camping,” slipped out.
There was a pause. And then he said, ever so politely, “How unfortunate.”
Yes, it is unfortunate to get tired of camping when one lives in a camper. I wrote to a friend recently that I’m one of those sensible campers who, when it gets too uncomfortable, says, “Okay, it’s time to go home now.” Ah, yes, home. That would be right where I am, right? Which at the time was a crowded campground in the dreary rain.
Fortunately, yesterday I left said campground and headed north. I was a little worried about the drive: I’ve been aiming for two hours between destinations but yesterday was five. I shouldn’t have worried. Five hours is actually better than two, I think, because somewhere past two hours but before three, I hit the fun driving zone where being on the road started to feel like an adventure again. I was driving through cute little Texas towns — Athens, Paris — and along roads with real ranches. Also roadkill galore — dead deer, skunks, armadillos. Younger R used to get upset about the roadkill in Florida, but northern Texas has Florida beat by a mile. Or maybe their vultures aren’t as efficient. And so many places with lawn statues for sale! Bugs on bicycles, giant dinosaurs, all kinds of fun stuff. I drove through a town called Canton that obviously has an incredible flea market (on the first weekend of the month), with probably a mile of road that felt like an event waiting to happen. A ghost flea market.
In Paris, I stopped for groceries. Google let me know that I had a choice between two local stores or Walmart, so of course I went to one of the local stores. Wrong choice, I guess, but at least I didn’t need much. The dog food was $16.99 (instead of the $12.99 I usually pay); the only granola that was gluten-free was actually Chex Mix; and I should have read the label on the yogurt before I bought it because I took one bite this morning, and only then discovered that the second ingredient is sugar. Oh, well. They did have these mega packs of meat that I wavered over for a while: $19.95 for four or five packages of different things — pork, chicken, ground beef. If I had a bigger freezer, I might have gone for it. Generally speaking, though, it was not a grocery store conducive to the shopping habits of a single person on a restrictive diet. I bought myself some spice gum drops as a consolation prize and even they were a disappointment. (I can’t remember if I mentioned this before but HEB, another local Texas store, has the best spice gumdrops I have ever tested. They might have spoiled me for all other versions.) It was still fun, though. In the past month, I’ve been to Trader Joe’s, CostCo, and Walmart, because they had things that I needed/wanted. But they’re all alike. Trader Joe’s in Texas might as well be Trader Joe’s in Florida or in California. Wandering around someplace different was good for me.
Post grocery store, I continued north to my campground. It’s my first Army Corps of Engineers campground and what a pleasant surprise. I’m not particularly good at researching my campground destinations. It takes a ton of time, it uses up my precious internet data at an appalling rate, and I haven’t figured out my priorities yet. Does a good view beat a level spot? Sometimes. Is proximity to the showers good or bad? It depends. Most everything feels like “it depends” to me, except space between campers (the more the better) and access to nature. I would never have figured out how nice this campground was from the internet because one of its advantages is that it’s really hilly. The sites are terraced up the hill, so that they all get a wonderful view of the lake. And it’s still winter here! Unlike southern Texas, the trees are mostly bare, with the occasional exception of a white flowering tree that might be a sweet olive. I can’t say for sure, because I haven’t gotten close enough to smell them and it is so cold — 37 degrees when I was walking Zelda this morning — that the smell isn’t carrying on the breeze. Or maybe I’m just too congested to tell.
But my window looks directly west, over the lake. Last night, my neighbors down the hill from me were sitting out around their table, chatting with one another. I felt sort of silly as I kept opening the window to take picture after picture of the scene behind them, because they were looking toward me. But I also wanted to call down to them, “turn around, turn around, look at what’s behind you.” It was the most beautiful sunset I’ve seen in weeks.
Last night, I left all the windows in the van uncovered. In most campgrounds, it feels… vulnerable, I guess, to be sitting in the camper with the darkness all around me. When it gets dark, I put the covers over the windshield and front windows, close the blinds on the kitchen window, pull down the shades over the side windows, hang up a magnetic curtain over the sliding door window, and pull the shower curtain in the back. It’s part of the evening routine, usually done before washing all the dishes and taking the trash out. But I didn’t bother last night. Instead I went to sleep looking at the stars in the black sky, between the bare branches of trees.
So this morning — ridiculously early — I woke up when it got light. Not light because of the sunrise, light because of the full moon. Zelda thought it was probably time to get up and it took me a while to convince her that no, we were not going outside in the not-quite-freezing cold to walk. I wanted to say “walk in the dark” but it really wasn’t dark. The light wasn’t warm, it was a cool blue light, but it was definitely bright enough that we could have wandered around the campground without worrying about tripping or running into things.
When we finally did get up, at sunrise instead of moonrise, the moon was still in the sky. So were huge flocks of birds. I have no idea what the birds were, but hundreds of them flew overhead, close enough that I could hear the beating of their wings, like taffeta rustling. They were sort of quacky birds, not cheeping or trilling, but I don’t think they were ducks. As I’m writing, another huge flock is floating down the river. They’re white — sea gulls, maybe? Geese? I’m going to have to try to get a closer look, because I really can’t tell. They’re just white dots drifting along the blue water. The flock this morning was the typical dark spots against the sky, definitely not geese because they were much too small.
Between the sunset, the stars, the moon, the birds, the water — well, and most likely, the fact that it did not rain yesterday and might not today either! — I am, at least for today, no longer tired of camping.