Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Toll Booth Is On The Wrong Side!

Debbie is coming, Debbie is coming, Debbie is coming!  Today was the day my friend Debbie would join me for a few days, and I was so excited for her arrival!  Let me tell you a little bit about my friend.

Courtesy of Google Images
Back in the day, when Debbie and I were stalking members of Fleetwood Mac during their "Say You Will Tour" and beyond, we would take long road trips to follow the band to various states for concerts. While I drove (because I'm OCD and I have to be the driver) Debbie would pull magazines from a huge satchel, flip through the pages, and tear out any page that had something pretty on it.  This…drove…me…crazy.  One simply does not destroy a perfectly good magazine by ripping out pages.  She would then remove the mailing label and save the magazine carcass for recycling, filing away the ripped out pages.  Debbie has boxes and boxes full of files for "pretty things".  I was grotesquely fascinated with her obsession, like when you have to slow down to look at a car wreck.  With the advent of Pinterest, Debbie now has more boards than anyone I know, with a board for every color, every room of her house, every outside area, every accessory, even a board for different types of clothes.  She will pin one picture to umpteen different boards.  Finally, I couldn't take it anymore, and I asked her why.  Why, in the name of all that is good on God's green earth, does she file away all these pictures?

Her answer is simple.  She likes pretty things.

Debbie takes the challenges she has faced in life and turns them into opportunities to grow, and she seeks the positive lesson in every situation.  She knows the world can be an ugly place, so she wants to make it pretty.  She is even dreaming of starting a website that connects people with pretty things, hence all the Pinterest boards and files full of ripped out pages.  She believes in beautiful things, and wants to share them.  I will only grudgingly admit that I admire her for it.

I like to simplify my world, remove all the clutter so I can clear my mind and my time to focus on things that matter.  Debbie likes to fill her world with beautiful colors, textures, fabrics, art, and music to fill her mind and heart with beauty.  I run away from the world; Debbie runs into it full-speed and embraces every moment filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly, because she has the amazing ability to find something good in everything.

Debbie is a beautiful, smart, strong, and joyful woman.

That being said, Debbie is also kind of a wimp, though I had no comprehension of the depth of her wimpiness  prior to this trip, and I've known her for 20 years. She claims she is not a camper, but I know she likes camping with me and Rooney.  Because she loves pretty things, which I really mean as a compliment, when Debbie comes, I glamp up the campsite.  For her, I'd do anything.

Having previously set up my glampsite, I woke early on Sunday to freshen things up and take care of a few necessities before she arrived.  I started inside the camper, kicking an unhappy Rooney outside and cleaning all the surfaces with organic orange cleaner (not so much because I'm an environmentalist, more because it smells really good) then vacuumed the significant amount of dog hair left by Rooney in the rugs and on Rooney's, oops! I mean, Debbie's bed.  Then I showered, started a fresh pot of coffee, and headed outside.

Rooney had been howling the entire time I was in the camper, because he gets very upset when he can't see me.  So I gave him a bone to chew and went to work cleaning the tables outside, adding water to the wildflowers in a vase, watering the mums, and sweeping the mats.  I filled the empty wine bottles with lamp oil, put the hurricane lamps on them, and took a final look to make sure everything was pretty and perfect, just like Debbie.

Courtesy Google Images
I then made five trips to the water pump with my 7-gallon water jug to use it to fill the tin can with water.  Of course, every time I walked away with the empty jug, Rooney howled until I returned to the campsite with a full jug.  I kept thinking there has to be a way to design a harness for Rooney to carry the jug on his back.  Then I could just walk him up to the pump, fill the jug, and let him carry it back.  Maybe next year I'll figure that out.

Then I had to perform the unpleasant task of dumping my black tank into an external tank, and hauling it up that steep hill in the campground to the dump station.  Last year, I invested in the Thetford top-of-the-line external dump tank, a spectacular device that makes this "crappy" chore much easier.  I love the swivel wheel in the front which makes it so easy to maneuver the tank away from the camper and over to the car, and the design which allows me to raise the handle on the tank and hook it over my vehicles hitch, without having to lift the tank.  I drove to the dump station pulling the Thetford tank behind, dumped, and after hosing down the tank, drove back.

Whew!  By now it was noon, and I only had a couple of hours before Debbie arrived, so I loaded Rooney in the car and drove to Paradise for firewood.  Filling the back of my car with loose wood, I inspected each piece for snakes before throwing it into my vehicle, and again the guy who sold me the wood said,

 "It's too cold for snakes, trust me."

I arrived back at camp with a good supply of firewood, stacked it all outside, then surveyed my surroundings.  Debbie would arrive any minute, and as I looked around at my clean glampsite, with the river running swiftly below us, the sun shining through the trees, and a fire crackling, I knew she would be happy here.
Okay, I don't actually stack my firewood like Gary Tallman of Montana, but his website has inspired me!

Filling a basket with butter toffee peanuts, I put it on the table by the fire, grabbed a book, and sat down to read and wait for my friend.  I didn't wait long, for five minutes later she pulled in!  Debbie is here, Debbie is here, Debbie is here!

Courtesy of Google Images

She didn't even unload anything from her car, instead Debbie went straight to her camp chair to unwind and enjoy the fire.  I asked about her trip up, just to be polite, and was shocked at her level of anxiety regarding this trip.  By the time she reached Clare, two hours south of the Mackinac Bridge, she was having panic attacks about driving over the bridge.  She had never driven over the Big Mac and was terrified.  She said she kept envisioning the conversation she would have with the toll booth attendant where she expressed her fears and the attendant kindly offered to drive her vehicle for her.  I thought, "Uh oh, she was in trouble".  She then rather indignantly told me that before she knew it, she was actually on the bridge, thinking, "where is the damn toll booth?!"  I had neglected to include, in my pages of instructions for Debbie, the fact that the toll booth is on the other side of the bridge, in the U.P.  Debbie proclaimed, 

"Well, the toll booth is on the wrong side!"  

Courtesy of Google Images

She made it over the bridge without plunging off the side by focusing on the taillights of the car in front of her.  Good call, Debbie.  Once she reached the other side, her relief at having crossed the bridge was so great that she stopped to buy a Diet Pepsi and celebrate.  Per my instructions, she knew that the rest of the trip would be unencumbered by McDonald's and Gas Stations at every corner, so after fueling her thirst and her gas tank in St. Ignace, she began the best part of the journey, driving up M-123 to Paradise.

Debbie enjoyed the rest of the drive, but as is normally the case, she was unable to take in much of the surroundings because she was busy following my pages and pages of directions.  She did comment that the only restaurant she saw on the way was called "The Bear Butt Bar and Grill".  At this point, Debbie was really wondering what I had gotten her into!  
Courtesy of Google Images

I told Debbie of my desire to retrace my hike to Clark Lake with her.  Because I had managed to post the picture of the bear from Oswald's Bear Ranch, with no explanation, Debbie had seen it and assumed, as I hoped she would, that I had seen the bear while hiking.  I began telling her a rather embellished story of my quest for the bear, when she interrupted me with objections to following in my footsteps.  When I got to the part about seeing the sign on the side of the road for Oswalds, she was visibly relieved, but still nervous about the next day's hike.

I had talked to so many locals, and DNR officers, about the bear, and repeated to Debbie what I had learned from them.

"We won't see a bear, Debbie.  Trust me."

Debbie reminded me that I had neglected to tell her the toll booth is on the wrong side, so trust was apparently becoming an issue for her.  She was far more nervous about our foray into the wilderness than I realized, and started expressing all her fears.

Debbie:  "What about mountain lions?  My husband said there are mountain lions here."

Courtesy of Google Images

Me: "Your husband is just trying to scare you.  There are no mountain lions here.  Trust me."

Debbie:  "What about snakes?"  (She shares my phobia)

Me:  "It's too cold for the snakes to come out.  Trust me."

Debbie:  "There are moose up here.  What if they charge us?"

Me:  "We would be lucky to see a moose, but we won't.  Trust me."
Courtesy of Google Images

Debbie:  "What if we get lost?  There are no cell phone signals here!  What if we bump into evil hunters?  What about foxes and coyotes?  And WOLVES?"

Me:  "Trust me, we will be fine."

Later, Debbie unloaded her car, and carried in a lot of food.  Why did she bring all this fancy food?  I have nuts and M&M's and soup, what more do we need?  But she brought fancy cheeses and crackers, pasta salads, veggie salads, scrambled egg casseroles, and wine.  Lots of wine.  I don't even drink wine.  When she stepped outside to get more things from her car, she called out that Rooney was eating the entire basket of butter toffee peanuts I had set out for us.  Uh oh.  This could be bad.

My Bed
Once we had her all settled in, I showed her how to make her bed.  Sleeping in the tin can is an almost holy experience for me.  My bed is in the back of the camper, and stays made up with my bedding all the time.  I have very nice bedding for the tin can, it is my one weakness for "fancy", and my bed is heavenly.  For Debbie, I have to put down the table and pull out the couch in the front of the camper to make her bed each night, but this year I left the sleeping bags at home and also made her bed with fancy bedding.  Once we were both comfortably resting in our beds, with Rooney giving Debbie dirty looks from the floor, she called out to me,

"I brought a wilderness survival guide.  I am going to read a few things to you."
Debbie's Bed

Oh boy.  For the next hour, Debbie read to me the safe and proper way to handle many situations.  We learned the following procedures:

1. How to Scare Away a Bear (You know, the bear we won't see?)
2. How to Avoid a Charging Bull (we substituted Moose for Bull, but I had a hard time picturing Debbie in black pants and shirt waving a red flag at a Moose)
3. How to Defend Against a Mountain Lion Attack (if a mountain lion jumps on our backs from a tree, I'd say this section was pretty useless)
4. How to Survive in Quicksand (Hmmmm….)
This isn't really the Mackinac Bridge, but you get the idea!
Courtesy of Google Images
5. How to Survive in a Car Plunging Off a Bridge (Remember the photo from my earlier post of a barge passing beneath the bridge?  Well, now if a barge is too tall and hits the Big Mac while one of us in driving over it, we will know what to do.   Scream.)
6. How to Survive a Jump or Fall from a Bridge (As if either one of us would be in the right frame of mind to remember to clench our butt cheeks as we hit the water.  Seriously, that's what the guide told us to do.)
7. How to Survive a Poisonous Snake Bite (Doesn't matter, we will both have died from a heart attack at this point)
8. How to Survive a Bullet Wound (Okay, so I do carry a gun, but I really don't plan to shoot Debbie with it.)

There were more, but you get the idea.  Debbie was scared.  Wimp.

Before we fell asleep, I commanded Rooney not to throw up half-digested butter toffee peanuts in my camper, and I revised my plan for tomorrow.  I promised Debbie I would drive us all the way to the parking area (I was pretty sure I could make it with four-wheel drive), and from there it would only be a quick ten-minute hike to Clark Lake.  I told her that the other places I wanted to explore could be driven to, instead of my usual hiking, and that she could stay in the Yukon anytime she felt uncomfortable getting out to explore.  I had a full tank of gas, we weren't going that far, and we wouldn't see any wild animals.

"Trust me."

Courtesy of Google Images