“There is an awful lot of not very much here,” said Jimmy as we drove and drove and drove through the high desert of eastern
Washington – a dry, barren, biscuit-colored landscape. It dulled our senses after the lush, picturesque bank of the Columbia River. We had kept to the north bank of the river except for one brief interlude when the navigator zoned out and sent the driver over a bridge giving us lovely east and west views up and down the river, or so I insisted, and taking us into Oregon briefly.
With only had two tasks to engage my mind over the hours on the interstate I missed the exit, and failed to find a suitable campsite for the night. It was like choosing a line in the supermarket; I narrowed it down to two possibilities in the camping directory then chose the wrong one, but how do you know?
Our first clue that I’d made a bad choice should have been when we drove over an unmanned railroad crossing 50 yards before the entrance to the site. The alarms bells did not go off in our brains as they would in our ears later.
We’d unhitched the trailer from the car and plugged in to electricity before the first WHOOWHOO! WHOOWHOO! DING!DING!DING!DING!DING! Four locomotives and 110 freight cars rumbled past. Jimmy and I just stared at each other in open-mouthed stupefaction. That was strike three against the campsite. We’d already had a run in with the owner of the site for daring to drive on to his campsite and had tried unsuccessfully to outrun the flies.
It had appeared to be a pastoral, tranquil campsite with individual sites lined up along a lake, half of them under the trees and half in the open. As soon as we stopped under the trees, flies descended on us so Jimmy wisely chose to move further along to an open aspect.
He pulled forward into a field ready for a reversing maneuver as I skipped from site 19 to site 20 to site 18 and back to 19, evaluating the merits of each – level ground, good view of the lake, pretty tree outside my bedroom window.
“Make up your mind!” he yelled. His demeanor deteriorates after eight hours of driving.
Just then the owner bowled up to me in a golf cart. “Can I help you?” he began, almost pleasantly. I would have thought it was obvious why we were there.
“We’re just trying to choose a site.”
“Well you should have come to see me first,” he spat. “I’ve got a lot of people coming in.” It was five o’clock on a Thursday and I looked up and down the line of 38 empty campsites.
“The office was closed.”
“You can’t expect me to sit in there all day.”
Oh no? “As the office was closed we took a late registration envelope to pay our fee,” and I waved it at him to confirm that we hadn’t tried to sneak in behind his back.
“You have to register first. Didn’t you see the sign?”
“I saw the sign. How can we register when you’re not in the office?”
“I was on the phone in the house. You should have waited.”
How am I supposed to know that? “We phoned you for a reservation but you didn’t return our call.”
He ignored that and continued his rant. “You can’t just park anywhere.”
“Where can we park?”
“How long are you staying?”
“Well get set up here and then come and register, but you’ll have to leave by 12:00 tomorrow.”
Oh trust me, I thought, we’ll be long gone before then and why couldn’t you have asked that question first?
And that was just strike one.