When I set off from Allentown on Monday, my plan was to take a slow drive south, seeing the scenery along the way. I had my sights on a small National Forest campground for my first night, to be followed by a drive through Shenandoah, then more driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway. With overnight stops along the way, of course. By the weekend, I’d be in North Carolina. I’d explore Asheville and the Great Smoky Mountains, maybe check out the ruby mine in Cherokee, just because I liked the sapphire mine in Montana so much.
In other words, I’d be a tourist.
The only problem with this plan is that the book isn’t finished, and I really truly want to get it done.
I made it to my first destination: Little Fort Campground in the George Washington National Forest. It’s a tiny campground, only nine sites, and it has no amenities. No water, no hook-ups, no showers, no dump station, no garbage service. Also no internet access and no cell service. It’s also free, so you know, you get what you pay for.
Except not really, because it is beautiful and treed and peaceful. Not a view, exactly — it’s just a spot in the middle of a forest — but out of every window I see trees, just starting to pick up their autumn color. The campground seems to be a base point for people with ATVs, so occasionally the noise of humankind is pretty loud. But mostly it’s crickets. Literal crickets, lots and lots of them. At night, the only lights I can see are the ones created by the van and by nature. Well, and once a campfire from people across the way.
When I got here on Monday, I had my choice of three sites: one right next to the check-in board that was so tiny the van would barely squeeze in; one relatively sloped site; and one that was the nicest spot in the campground — a pull-through spot, with steps up to a level square with a picnic table, fire ring, and paved tent spot.
I feel like it would be good to explore my reservations about taking the nicest spot with a therapist sometime — really, why did I hesitate? Why did I feel like I should leave that spot to some person with a bigger camper who would need a pull-through? Why did I feel guilty, in a first-come, first-served campground, about choosing the best option of the available options? I don’t know, but I did. However, I overcame the guilt and took the good spot.
And then I stayed. Because honestly, I feel like I should see the National Parks, since I’m so close. And I feel like I should take the long scenic drives, and admire the beauty of our autumn countryside. And I feel like I should explore Asheville, a town that I’ve been told I’d love so many times.
But what I want to do is finish writing APM. So for the past two days, I’ve played with words and stared into space and eaten nice food and taken occasional brief walks with Z and enjoyed my life. Ever so much, enjoyed my life.
I’m writing this on Thursday, but you’re not going to read it on Thursday, because I have no internet access. When I went to sleep last night, I was thinking today was the day I’d drive on. Shenandoah, Blue Ridge Parkway, etc. Also internet access for checking email and messages, posting blog posts. But I’m not going to. Maybe tomorrow if I run out of water or propane or finish writing the book. (The first is possible but unlikely; the second is possible and somewhat likely; the third is highly unlikely.) Instead, I’m going to keep playing with words and appreciate the sounds of crickets.
Updated to add: propane was the deciding factor. But before I left, I had such a nice experience. I realized I was going to have to go late Thursday afternoon, while heating up some soup for dinner. I was a little bummed, but accepting. Obviously, it was still a choice: I could have stayed without propane. But I would have had to run the generator to make coffee in the morning and I am not capable of being that rude to my neighbors. No one likes being woken up by a growling gas generator when camping.
So I packed up the van so I could be ready to go first thing in the morning. Everything was stowed, I was mostly all set to go… and a late arrival drove into the campground. A truck, pulling a trailer. Not huge, but the only site in the campground that he might possibly fit into was mine. He drove in, took the loop, was making his way out, and I hopped out of the van and flagged him down. Ten minutes later, I was moved into the tiny site across the way, the one next to the check-in board, and a very happy camper — who’d been on the road for eleven hours — was settling into my site. He was grateful and the serendipity felt like the universe telling me it was time to move on. It was such nice timing.
And no, the book isn’t done. It took another unexpected turn, which… well, it’s an unexpected book, I guess. But I spent quite a bit of time wavering about this unexpected turn. A paragraph that sums up the dilemma:
“Fen fumbled for the crystal in her pocket, unable to tear her eyes away from Ghost. Clearly, she had fallen asleep and woken up in some bad B movie from the 1950s. This couldn’t possibly be real.”
Fortunately, I eventually decided that bad B movies can be highly entertaining and I might as well stick with enjoying the ride. “Still giggling” remains among my favorite reader feedback ever, after all!