We’re enjoying our third day here alongside Lake Gaston. Third day? I have a problem, if you can call it a problem.
I have been taken out of time. Completely. I’ve mentioned it before, but only giving way to the possibility. Each reference to a sense of timelessness would start with a qualifier – “It’s almost as if …,” or, “It seems/feels like …” Never full acceptance. But I’m willing to acknowledge and accept it this particular afternoon.
It’s not only that I’ve lost track of the day of the week, or the particular date of the month. I have to calculate how many days we’ve been here. I have to go to my Excel spreadsheet to see the date of our arrival and then go to the calendar to see today’s date. It’s only then that I can do the calculation.
As an aside, losing all track of days and dates has its downside, especially if you are having to pick up and head off to a new home every couple of weeks, or have to know when it’s time to make your next reservation. It’s never good to find out it’s “Move Day” when the ranger comes over and says, “Checkout was supposed to be an hour ago. Are you staying an extra day?” Not that I’ve been in that situation, but I started worrying about it after the first you occurrences of, “Gee, it’s Wednesday, not Monday.”
That’s part of the reason why I plan so far in advance. All our reservations are now planned out through mid September. But we can reserve Thousand Trails campsites no more than 90 days in advance, and because of space availability, it’s important to reserve the moment you get a chance.
So I have all that information in an Excel spreadsheet. And I’ve set it up so that it lets me know what’s what. I have little reminders that pop up on my calendar to let me know that it is “Move Day -2’” or “Reservation Day.” It’s helped immensely in dealing with the “Alz-time-rs Syndrome,” but to agree, it’s also accommodated it and made it easier than ever to simply not have to worry about what day or date it is!
Getting back to the opening thought though, after doing the calculation, yes, today is the 3rd whole day of our stay, after arriving late Wednesday afternoon.
It’s been incredibly relaxing and peaceful here. And that’s despite the hustle and bustle going on all around us. Our section of the park has filled up, I’m assuming for Easter. Because we’re on a lake, the campground has a boat ramp and a lot of campers have showed up with their speed boats and outboards. So there is lots of activity on the lake as well.
There are conversations going on all around and with only one exception, nobody’s loud. But even that’s cool. He’ll get loud telling a story and then all of a sudden his voice lowers a few decibels. I have a feeling his wife is telling him to take it down a notch and I chuckle in the immediacy of the moment when it happens.
Yes, it’s been a totally relaxing and enjoyable time. At least it has for me. I’m not sure about Frank, though. He has his moments … hell, who am I kidding? He has his hours asleep in the Nutshell. But he will suddenly appear, stretch, and then go on self-appointed guard dog duty!
I’m not sure if it’s new smells or what. In the first part of our journey, when we were still in a tent, Frank would do guard duty at night, from a bottom corner of the air bed. I’d wake up in the middle of the night sometimes and see him just sitting there, staring out the open flaps. He feels like he doesn’t have to do that at night now, given the close confines of the Nutshell. So maybe he’s thinking that he needs to find other ways to earn his keep. Hence daytime guard duty.
He likes to take up position right in front of me as I sit in the camp chair. I watch him scoot his haunches back so that he is sitting right directly between my feet. And then the head starts going – first left, with a pause long enough to take everything in; then a quick turn to the right, as if he heard something.
Once he’s figured out that no one is sneaking up on us from over there, he slowly turns his head back to center and stares out into nothing, contemplating whatever beagles contemplate. After a minute or so, he repeats the whole process. And again. Over and over.
I’ll laugh at him and say something like, “You know, you can relax. No one has said you have to stand guard!”
At that point, Frank will usually glance over his shoulder and give me one of two looks. The first is worry. As if he’s thinking, “Well, if I don’t do it, you certainly won’t … What was that? Did you hear that?” (Frank doesn’t appreciate the weight of my walking stick. Neither does he pay attention to the machete I keep handy at all times.)
The other look he will sometimes give is one of disdain. Frank does “disdain” better than any dog I’ve ever spent time with. There’s a, “Don’t tell me how to do my job!” feeling to that look. And he’s a little put off that I’m so dismissive of his protective capabilities. I get the same look when I disturb him trying to get into bed at night and he’s already there.
But there’s almost always a second look. I’ll laugh again and ask if I pissed him off. And I almost always get another look with a smile … “We’re cool. I’m just messing with ya.”
I can communicate with him better than I can with probably most people. At least I don’t have to worry about whether what he’s trying to communicate is filtered, or if it’s what he’s really thinking or feeling. But I digress…
We arrived as late afternoon was approaching. We actually got a great start out of Myrtle Beach State Park. It took almost exactly 30 minutes to break camp and that was it! I couldn’t believe how quick it was. I guess it’s because we’ve been setting up the same way now for so long that there’s nothing to really think about. Most of it is almost muscle memory.
Anyhow, we got on the road about 10 am. Google Maps said it was about a four and a half hour drive. Which I’ve now been able to translate to “Frank and Jeff” time – the amount of time it will actually take including a couple of stops. I also have to figure in how much highway driving we’ve been routed for. Google Maps doesn’t know that we don’t travel 65 mph anymore.
So, we arrived at the front gate around 3:30 p.m. This camp is pretty spread out. It’s a long way down the hill from the entrance to where most of the sites are. And while it might have normally taken 5 minutes to get down to the bottom, we took 10 as we started looking at some of the sites that were situated along the hillsides.
I saw Michael after we got down to the lakefront sites. I knew he was going to be here. He had sent an IM message with a video of geese flying over the lake and that was when we discovered our stays here would overlap by a day.
I sat down at this picnic table and we did a little catch up before I realized we hadn’t yet checked in with the office and told them which campsite I had selected. Plus, I still needed to set up. Frank and I went off to the office and agreed to spend more time with Michael later on.
I really had to laugh once the setup started. I posted a few Facebook photos of our set up at Myrtle Beach State Park and jokingly said that we had been living on the starboard side of the Nutshell for what seemed like forever, and wondered if Frank and I would know how to get into the cabin at night if we ever had to set up differently. Sure enough, you would have to know that that’s what we had to do at Lake Gaston!
It’s not that it’s any more difficult. It’s just
that the canopy orientation is different. In order to tie it down to the front hitch and back bumper of the trailer, I have to tie down what is normally the back leg of the canopy to the front hitch and vice versa. So I had to untie some stabilizing ropes that were attached to the canopy and reverse them so it could be anchored to the roof.
It also meant that where the main opening to the canopy looks frontward in port position, it was now opening out behind us. In this case, it was extreme serendipity! Without any extra effort, we were set up to look out over the lake.
Now I could have switched out the inserts to see the lake and would have done so once I realized our positioning. But the point is, I didn’t have to. And whether it’s true or not, I had a feeling that the universe, God, whatever you want to call it, was looking out for us … and also reminding me that it’s never a good idea to take one’s self too seriously, given how immediately after my comment we were forced to “go starboard”. I had to stop, give a nod heavenward, and smile.
We finished setting up the table and put out all our “essentials”. It was now time to relax.
I met Michael in January a few months back during our first stay at Peace River in Wauchula. Tim, another camper that would come by most nights to shoot the breeze, said after our first night there, “I have another friend here you should meet. I think you two would get along together.”
I think it was the next day that Michael rode by on his bicycle. If I remember correctly, he mentioned that Tim told him about me “sitting over here,” and figured he would stop to say hello. I acknowledge that Tim had mentioned him to me as well and we proceeded to have a casual conversation.
Tim was right. We do get along together. I think it’s a combination of shared philosophies, similar experiences of life on the road (although for different reasons), and that we have perhaps come to a shared belief in what things are valuable in this lifetime. I think it also helps it we’re somewhat contemporaries.
We ran into each other at another camp but it was again only in passing. It wasn’t until we both returned to Peace River and spent a little less than a week camp next week other that we had an opportunity to really get to know each other. That’s when we got to do the, “Two old guys sitting in their camp chairs and shooting the shit,” thing. And it was very much enjoyable!
Michael lives in New Hampshire, but spends his winter months traveling the southern part of the United States. He has a very interesting gig – he introduces people to the idea of “mindfulness” using a labyrinth as a tool.
Now this isn’t what you might think. It’s not set up with hedges or other objects. Nor is it a maze. Michael taught me something new – a maze has multiple paths and is meant to confuse you; a labyrinth has one path that takes you to the center and back out.
Michael’s labyrinth is laid out on a huge piece of carpet. I think he said it was 30’×30’. He sets it up at festivals, fairs and at the camp sites he visits. He explains how a labyrinth can be used in meditation to center one’s self. Or to contemplate a decision. As you enter the labyrinth, you’re supposed to hold your thought in contemplation as you move towards the center.
The other idea is that as one focuses on the path, it also brings them into a focus on the present rather than the past or the future. By putting all your energy into the present, you become less influenced by regrets of the past and anxieties over the future.
Its funny, but I didn’t have this particular thought in mind when I started out writing this post. But perhaps one of the reasons that time has less influence on me nowadays is the work I’ve been doing to address my own complex PTSD symptoms, primarily depression and anxiety.
Meditation has definitely helped to bring a focus on to the moment. But all the writing exercises have led to that as well. They were designed to counter bad habits one builds up from the past such as negative self talk, or bad dreams, or dissociation. They also helped to keep me from worrying about what might happen in the future.
Perhaps I need to stop referring to it as being taken out of time. I realize now that what I’ve actually been doing is living totally in the present!
Anyhow, Michael and I spent a great evening together sitting in the fresh air, next to the lake and amongst the trees. We shared stories, told jokes, laughed at stupid stuff, and generally just let the conversation flow. Half of the stuff isn’t worth mentioning and the other half was personal enough that it stays between the two of us.
Michael was off early in the morning, but that won’t be the last we see of each other. I’ve taken up his offer to come spend a few days at his home when I’m up in New England. It actually solves a little scheduling problem for me since I’ll be at his place over 4th of July. I’m looking forward to that immensely.
This has turned into another long post. And I haven’t mentioned anything about our stay at Myrtle Beach State Park. I’ll do that in a post tomorrow.