Thursday, October 18, 2018

Bugged Out In Virginia: Part 13 - In Which We Do The Unthinkable

I have found that we really do need to get out into the world and see things for ourselves. Sometimes the things we are sure of, well they just don't match up with what's out there.
Here we were, riding in a shuttle bus, flying along much faster than I felt good about, on snaking gravel country roads, while our hostess, casually drifted through turns that had me looking in earnest for something like a seatbelt. Paul was in his element, asking her about the logistics of running a campground out in the middle of nowhere. She found a kindred spirit and soon they were going into great detail about the best places to get large supplies of soft drinks for the best price, and what kind of candy bars really appealed to the backpackers that came into her store.
It turned out that she owned a really nice little place, and everybody in her family had a job there. Grandma came up to welcome me as I entered the store, me doing my best not to smell like a homeless person and failing, while she pretended not to notice. The daughter and son were off on different errands and taking orders for the grill in the back of the campground general store. Even while grandma was welcoming me, I was paying more attention to the other campers that were walking away from the counter, with cheeseburgers, fries and milkshakes. I don't think that I salivated enough that grandma could tell, but I'm not sure.

The owner seemed more like someone that would be head of a Cub Scout den than the owner of a campground, and sure enough, when we got the backstory, they left the big city to come run this place, and it looked like she could do it. The big surprise I got later, was the old guy riding around on a tractor, was her husband and she said he was good for doing odd jobs, but there was absolutely no question that she was the entrepreneur in the family. At some point she had Paul go check out some old coke machine that she was trying to fix, and he seemed excited about it, but it turned out it was junk. She had been on ebay looking for a key and doing research, how she had time, I cannot fathom.

It was finally my turn to eat and it was the best tasting food I'd had in a long time. When it was all gone, I sat back and felt glad that I was here instead of out on the trail in the rain. It was then that the bad feeling started in my stomach. Food poisoning was on my mind, although thinking back, it was probably too much, too soon after the hiking. For the next two hours, I hiked the campground in the rain, knowing for sure that if I lay down for a moment, I'd get sick. My exact feeling was that I was postponing the vomiting as far into the future as possible, but by some miracle, I was able to walk it off.
I went back into the store, and the owner said "Hey, there is an extra bunk in your cabin, and we had another hiker come in and he'll stay with you...he said you wouldn't mind." I turned around and there was Popeye!
It rained some more, and by the next day, I was ready for some home cooking and got one of the best breakfasts ever....and our Campground owner was also the cook. I didn't see much of her husband. I'm guessing with that 100 mph wife, the only safe place for a guy that didn't want to work as hard as she did, was out of sight.

We had a good time, hearing more stories from Popeye and meeting some of the other folks in the campground, but it finally became apparent that the rain wasn't going to end. Even Popeye was thinking of something else to do to avoid getting back out in the wet and the bugs. We finally decided that an early plane ticket home wasn't much more than the cost of a hotel room, so we got tickets and came home early. Paul was eager to get back home to tend to his business and I was beginning to wonder who's idea this was anyway...but I knew there would be a next time...

If there is a best thing about all of this, it is the cool people you meet. Charlie (Popeye) stayed in touch via email, telling us of his travels while doing his through hike. His college-age daughter joined him and hiked with him for month, leaving him with memories that will last him forever. Hopefully, we will soon learn if Popeye managed to complete the whole hike in a year as he planned. Me? I'll be happy to just go spend some more time in the woods, when the bugs are gone and the rain is light.

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