I want to tell you all a story, a story that ACTUALLY happened. It has become legendary, and I have even had people I.DO.NOT.KNOW. come up to me and ask, “You are the girl who was in the “camping” incident!!!”…
So, since it’s the crux of summer vacation season, and this has to be my ultimate summer vacation experience, snuggle up with your iPad, iPhone or MacBook and have a listen.
Have I lost you yet??
Okay… let’s get to it.
On our first wedding anniversary Denver and I decided to plan a trip to Colorado. We had $350 budgeted to spend, so we knew we had to vacation creatively. We did our research and decided to drive to Glennwood Springs, CO and go camping for 3 nights. Our trip was to include hiking the Hanging Lakes, swimming in the natural hot-springs and cooking dinner by the campfire.
After our 12 hour drive we pulled into the tiny town and arrived at our destination. We exited the highway and checked in with the front desk. No key was exchanged or electronic card activated, we were simply given a number and directions to our plot of land. I believe the number was 18 or 31, not sure but we followed the rocky road down a steep hill and rounded to corner to find our 10X10 spot of bare dirt positioned under towering trees just feet from a rushing river.
|This is a picture of the campsite we stayed at…. but that is not us…|
We couldn’t be more happy. This is what we had envisioned. An isolated camping spot nestled in the mountains of Colorado, all to ourselves.
After arriving we began to set up camp. We placed our tent facing the towering mountain and we floated our water jugs in the river so they would stay nice and cold. After blowing up our air mattress and unfolding our chairs we stood back and proudly admired our home-away-from-home. I remember it being dusk when we arrived so I got things started for dinner. We had stopped at a supermarket on our way to grab a few food items and on the menu that night was BLT’s. Cooking bacon on an open fire in the open woods, yummmm, yes please.
As we sat and cooked up our dinner, we see a rumble of dust coming our way. Rounding the corner of the dirt road leading to our camp site was a two-door-champaign-colored-Chrysler-Sebring-convertible….with.the.top.down. (This was before NBC’s Office had ever aired, but this happened to be the same car driven my Michael Scott.)
Denver and I looked at each other and with eyes widened we silently exchanged a “I hope they are not camping next to us” look.
But of course, as Karma had it, the Sebring pulls 20 feet from our tent. Out of all the empty spaces, he was assigned to the one directly next to us… In hindsight I believe the manager must have planned this out…
After the dust settled and the engine silenced, the car door opened to reveal a man in his late 40’s. He was wearing belted khaki shorts, pulled just a smidgen too high with a tucked in t-shirt, tucked in just a smidgen too tight. He wasn’t too tall, but he wasn’t too short with a medium build. He had a strong receding hairline with a partial mullet in the back. (You know, just long enough to make you uncomfortable.) Immediately I thought he looked a little like Ira from “Mad About You”.
|This is Ira from “Mad About You”… just envision this man from here on out…|
He walked around to the front of his car to reveal my favorite part of his attire, knee high black socks and Teva sandals. He paused and looked up at the mountains, taking in a deep breath of the crisp Colorado air. His arms placed on his hips, and his chin to the sky, he rocked back and forth.
Meanwhile, Denver and I were sitting at our little open fire with eyes glued to what seemed like the antithesis of a “camper”…. Before we could untangle the mess that just arrived next to us, he looks over, catching us in mid-stare and eagerly waves and with a grin that expanded from his left ear to his right he shouted, “HI NEIGHBORS!”… and then continued waving.
Denver and I raised our hands and waved back. I am not sure if there was any room for a smile in our gesture, we were so busy staring.
By this time the smell of bacon had wafted through the basin of the mountains and our sandwiches were ready to eat. We stopped the rude staring and grabbed a seat at the weathered wooden picnic table. After a few minutes of assembling our food… we just kept watching as the sideshow unfolded. We were on a tight budget and this seemed to provide some cheap entertainment. This poor awkward loner began to assemble his tent by himself. He walked around his car, opened up the trunk of his convertible and dragged out a few duffle bags. Tackling the tent first he stretched out the 12 foot collapsable poles and attempted to steak them in four different corners, they kept coming loose or popping out of place, leaving our little neighbor flustered and embarrassed.
Denver could take it no longer and he walked over and began helping him put the tent in place. While over helping he (meaning Denver) decided it would be a good idea to offer the traveler a sandwich, since it the dark was soon approaching and he obviously wore himself out trying to assemble to tent.
Together, they walk over to our table and Denver gives him an extra BLT we had leftover. We assumed he would thank us, walk away and let us enjoy our evening, but instead he made himself right at home and bellied up to our picnic table. We didn’t know how to ask him to leave, so we just went with it, chatting about his journey from New York to LA. He told us that he had quit his job and sold all of his belongings and he was a veteran of the Nevada Hippy Movement called “Burning Man”. We nodded, acted interested and tried to make short conversation.
Things started to wind down and he had finished his dinner. Conversation started to slow and I think I mentioned something about being tired or going to bed…basically to get him to leave.
At that point in the conversation, our new camper friend looks at us and says,
“So… what do you say if we pack these things up (waving his hands over the food covering the table top) and move this party into the tent”…
Denver and I could not speak fast enough… we couldn’t make eye contact either because we might have burst out into a fit of laughter. So of course my initial response to him inviting himself into our tent “to have a party” was..
“Oh, no… Our tent is a mess, you don’t want to go in there…”
And honestly after that I don’t remember what happened. I was in such a state of shock…. Who was this man; a serial killer? Obviously he WAS a lunatic-crazy-man who had quit his job and gone completely OFF GRID!!!! So. We should be scared. Denver thought the Burning Man connection confirmed he was a nomad looking for some free-love…. but in either case, he was NOT invited into our tent. Period.
He eventually got the hint and went back to his tent and we went inside ours and F.R.E.A.K.E.D. out!!!
Before going to sleep Denver decided to go to the campsite bathrooms. Since it was dark, he made the choice to drive, he hopped in the truck and as he was driving up the hill, he saw something dark run in front of him. Not giving it much thought, he pulled into the bathrooms and got out of his truck.
As he approaches the bathroom Denver hears someone say, “Beat ya, Neighbor”… and he looks over and to find HIM!!! Waiting for Denver at the door of the bathrooms was the camper-neighbor-weirdo-man who was out of breath from running up the hill on foot. Creeeeeeeeeppppy!!
Denver made it safely back to our tent unharmed. After some discussion and methodical planning we decided to up our “security game”. We devised a plan before heading to bed. Denver had a giant buck knife in his truck, so we got it out and slept with it between us. The plan went as follows: Denver slept by the door and I slept on the side facing the back wall. If scary-camper-neighbor-man came to attack us in the middle of the night Denver was going to cut a hole in the back of the tent, I would slip out and get help while Denver fought him off with the knife.
I must admit most of this plan was a joke, but the fact is that we really did sleep with the knife between us that night and a flashlight on… For some reason this made me feel safe? Denver thought the flashlight only added to the creepy guys ability to kill us, because he could see us, but I wanted it on, and we left it thataway.
Sleep did arrive in our tent that night. Even though we felt like we were living in a summer thriller movie, we did relax and doze off. The next morning, Denver unzipped the tent only to find HIM standing outside the door of his tent shirtless, facing our tent with his arms crossed and a smile on his face. Denver acknowledged him with a nod, and the nosy neighbor returned his greeting with an eager wave and again a giant grin spanning his face.
Needless to say we packed our bags that morning, after one night of camping, we decided to splurge and we rented a cheap hotel room the next 2 nights. That was the last time we have gone camping together at a camp grounds, and that was the last time anyone has invited themselves into our tent for a party.
So now when we are among friends or family around the table and dinner is winding down to a close we always say, “So what do you say if we pack these things up and move the party into the tent?“…