better late than never

Last month (July 12-15) we had what might be our final campout for the summer. It was a group campsite, which we shared with several friends and their families. This included my friend Nat and his wife Erin, our friends Joe and Kathleen, Kathy’s brother David, plus my ex-wife and her new husband. As usual with these things, the kids far outnumbered the adults.

As related in Nat’s post linked above, we were graced with the presence of several hundred sheep at about 3 in the morning the first night. It was a Thursday night, so I think we may have been the only ones in the campground. Of our group, only one or two of the kids managed to sleep through it. I’ll let you in on a secret … if the sheep are real, counting them will not help you sleep. It’s amazing how loud they are, and how many different noises the different animals in a herd can make.

When we arrived at camp hours before the invasion we had taken note of the large “No livestock in campground” sign next to a cattleguard. In the morning, we talked to a forest ranger who drove through camp. He acknowledged that it was illegal, and even seemed to know exactly who was at fault, but didn’t seem too keen on trying to do anything about it. He was more worried about the dung than someone breaking the law and disrupting a federal campground and watershed.

Other than the sheep, the campground was great. Right next to the lake, with a huge grassy meadow for the kids to play. We caught and ate nearly a dozen trout. The lake is tiny and well-stocked, so catching them is really just a matter of tossing a hook in the water.

We did have another campout planned for later in the year, to my mother’s house in Montana. Before we left town, we had decided that we would move that trip to right after this campout. We were going to come back home for a night and then get on the road. By the time we broke camp on Sunday, we had decided we weren’t going to go.

On the drive home, we were talking about it and decided that if we were going to make it up to my mom’s house this year at all, we would have to do it now. If we were to go home, we’d never find the energy to get back out. We skipped going home and started the trip that day, stayed the night in Idaho Falls, and arrived in Montana the next day.

We hung around my mom’s house for a few days, relaxing and doing next to nothing. We looked at old pictures, watched TV, and Kathy slept as much as she could. It rained almost every night, and we learned that we have a new leak in the trailer roof, around the vent fan.

We decided to leave a little bit early, on the 19th, which is also Kathy’s birthday, visit Virginia City, and stay a couple of nights in an RV Park there. We rolled into the RV park, got the trailer set up, and ventured into town to see the sights. My mom planned to join us that night or the next day.

That day was probably Kathy’s worst birthday ever. Ben was being a horrid little child, screaming and crying at every shop because he wanted everything he saw and we wouldn’t buy it for him. Kathy did see a wonderful antique ships wheel in one of the shops, but she thought the price was too high so we didn’t buy it.

By the time we had walked through the town and found a place to rest for a bit, Ben was having a complete meltdown, natural after a week of camping. The worst part came afterwards, when we got back to the RV park.

We had been given the site in the park that was as far away from everything as possible. It wasn’t because it was full, we surmised later that it was because we have kids. They had more than their share of picky rules – 5 mph speed limit, no leaving your air conditioner running if you’re not around, quiet time starts 9 pm, and several others.

After a late lunch of sandwiches, we got Ben down for a much-needed nap. While Kathy went on a grocery trip with one of the kids to Ennis, the nearest town with services, I napped with Ben in the air-conditioned trailer. Shortly after I woke up, by which time Kathy had been gone a good 3 hours, she returned.

I discovered when I had woken up that I didn’t have Ben’s glucose meter. Kathy had accidentally taken it with her when she left. When she came back, she was in a bit of a rush, worried that Ben was having a problem and I was without a way to check him to know what he needed. We verified that he was OK, then decided to go find a nice place to have dinner.

It seems that this park takes their 5 mph speed limit very seriously, but the only place you ever find out about it is on the information sheet they give you on check-in. The speed limit IS NOT POSTED anywhere in the camp, and Kathy actually didn’t know about it because she hadn’t read the paper. Not that you can go more than about 15 mph at the fastest anyway, because the gravel road is bumpy and in bad repair.

The owner’s wife flagged us down on the way out to yell at her about how fast she was going when she came in just a few minutes prior. When we made it near the office building, the owner came out and also happened to be on the passenger side, so Kathy got griped at again.

Keep in mind that at this moment Kathy was tired and cranky from a week of camping with little sleep, Ben’s meltdown, plus three hours of driving and shopping, followed by worrying about her son’s life at the other end of a drive that because of steep uphill grades is going to take about half an hour, in a place with no cell coverage. On her birthday. This is enough to bring the tears forth.

So, it’s 8pm and we’re driving back into town to find some dinner, only the entire town is closed except for the bars. We drive a little further to Nevada City, it’s closed too. Down the road a ways is Alder, which has a small restaurant. It’s a place that is so proud of their steaks they want $20-$30 for each of them.

With all this going on, we decide we’ve had enough, we’re going to cut our losses and just go home. We get back to camp about 9pm, and an hour later the trailer is hooked up and ready. As I passed the office building and got through the last big rut in the gravel, I stomped on the gas so we were going a good 20 mph for a short distance before we had to stop at the main road.

“It’s a little childish and stupid, but then, so is high school.” — Ferris Beuller

We got home a little while after dawn. Later we learned that we are far from alone in our bad experience at that campground. We are now convinced that this place never gets any repeat business, there are always new suckers who want to visit an old west ghost town.

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