Yesterday, we went camping. This was a semi planned trip – semi, because the original plan was to go last weekend, which was a three day weekend, and go to Nehalem Bay State Park and listen to the ocean.
Well, on the way home from the grocery store last Saturday morning, the truck broke down. Just died. So that was the end of that camping trip, because, as I said, at least it didn’t break down while towing the camper down 101. That, I said, was a particular hell I never ever wanted to experience and also extremely dangerous and, fuck it, I’m just not going to drive until Monday when I can drop it off at the mechanic, who is blessedly within walking distance of my house.
Ah ha ha ha ha. In retrospect that is hilarious.
Anyway, I got the truck fixed and it was expensive but now it is smooth and quiet and so I said to my son, OK, look, it will be tight but we can go this weekend; we’ll go to Cape Disappointment, which is closer, leave as soon as I get off work on Friday and we’ll stay until Sunday. I knew it was cutting it tight – driving at night is very hard for me nowadays and I will do almost anything to avoid it – but he really wanted to go and hell, so did I.
So I dashed home on Friday – yesterday – and hitched up in record speed. Extremely record speed which meant that a lot of stuff got forgotten and we squabbled and it was still late when we pulled out of the driveway. Camping! It is not simple! I thought the hitch felt and looked a little funny but, it was working. It was not making scary clunk noises the way it did the one time it fell off the ball right after I first got it, right as I was learning how to tow it, how to turn and back up (that actually took months and months) and so on. I wanted to pull over and check it but there was somebody riding my bumper and nowhere to do it.
So we headed up the bridge. The Astoria bridge. The Megler bridge. I just went down a rabbit hole looking for a picture but the problem is I have too many. It’s an iconic famous bridge crossing the Columbia River from Astoria to nowhere in particular Washington and I have driven it many times. It is a little hairy being extremely steep and extremely narrow and extremely high but bridges are fortunately not one of my phobias so it’s never bothered me.
Before, that is.
We got around the curve upwards and we were climbing up, up, up, going very slowly now because Moby, as we know, just LOOKS like a super tough truck but is actually a sweet little truckette with a mini engine, an engine lite, if you will. Then there was a terrible bang and a clunk and a jerk to a stop and it seemed as if all was over.
And it very nearly was. The camper had come completely off the ball of the hitch and the yoke was lying on the roadbed. The camper was held to the truck only by the chains and it was straining backwards down the hill but fortunately all the brakes were holding. Fortunately we did not jackknife. Fortunately we were straight and in our same lane. My GOD we were fortunate.
Traffic was backing up behind us at a furious rate and I was, as my son has told me multiple times now, screaming. And calling 911 and dropping my phone, with velocity, onto the pavement (which proved to be the end of it.) 911, once they knew everyone was okay, sent me to OSP, Oregon State Police who promised to send an officer right away. Meanwhile, the sun was setting and the view was unbelievable and I kept thinking that we were about to die, that inevitably someone would get impatient and try to pass us and run into traffic, or we would be hit by someone coming the other way, or something, I don’t know, but I was fairly sure I was breathing my last. I wanted to take a picture, too, but it seemed wrong somehow and anyway I was shaking.
The OSP trooper came up very soon. I have never in my life been so glad to see a cop. He was very very VERY nice. The three of us lifted the yoke and got it back on the hitch ball. He said, follow me, and if anything else happens, hit your flashers. We did. It was okay. We pulled over at the base of the bridge and I talked to him a little more. I figured I was going to jail or at least going to get a million dollar fine for impeding traffic on the bridge but no! I kept apologizing and he said everything was fine, accidents happen, be careful and have a nice camping trip.
So we drove on to Cape Disappointment, about a 20 minute drive from there ordinarily but it took a lot more because I was too scared to go fast.
NOW WE GET TO THE FARCE PART OF THE EVENING
It was by then around 6:30 and very dark. We had called Cape D. to make sure they were taking walkins because we figured, hey, random January weekend! Cold as hell! Going to rain on Sunday! There will be nobody there, right?
I pulled up at the ranger station. There was nobody there of course but there is now a yellow phone you can lift and it will call someone so you can pay for a campsite. The dude on the other end of the phone was very mellow. Sure, he said, try site 25 or 49. The way he said it, I assumed he meant we could have it all weekend and that there were lots more as well.
We were shocked at how crowded it was. We looked at both campsites and tried driving around looking for empty sites but there were none, which was unsettling. Then we said, fuck it, let’s go for 25 even though it does not seem ideal. And we did, backed in, and got unhitched and my son started a fire and I hopped back into the truck with the dogs to go back to the yellow phone and pay for it.
Only to find, from a different and significantly less relaxed dude, that they had sold my campsite to somebody else while I was lollygagging around unhitching the damn camper.
So I said, ok, we will take 49 and I was raging and damn near crying and they wouldn’t give me a discount and THEN he told me, oh, by the way, you have to leave by 1:00 tomorrow, the entire campground is booked tomorrow night unless you want a dry site, we have a couple of those but not many. No, I said, no, I do not want to boondock when it is 32 degrees outside goddamnit I want water and sewer and all the comforts of home and most particularly I DO NOT WANT TO UNHITCH AND HITCH THE CAMPER UP AGAIN TOMORROW OR POSSIBLY EVER.
So the upshot was that I paid a small fortune ($45 for fucks sake, in January) for site 49 and I drove back to find my son standing happily by a raging fire and I said, put that out, we have to move.
This was an unhappy conversation and I was trying to back the truck up in the darkness and again nearly crying and that was when our savior, Lynn, appeared.
Lynn is the camp host and she is a GODDESS. Lynn said, I just talked to those yellow phone guys and they shouldn’t have done that. So the people who took your site showed up and I found out what happened and I moved them to 30, which is empty even though it is reserved.
Then we had a lot of back and forth about who had paid for which site and that all became extremely confusing if sort of hilarious in a hallucinatory way. Lynn also said that she has been the winter camp host at Cape D for 11 years and it has never ever been this crowded and isn’t it crazy.
And yes, it is.
Then my son said, where are the veggie burgers? And I said, I thought you got the veggie burgers.
And that’s why we had supermarket potato salad and onion quesadillas for dinner, although I personally mostly had wine because JESUS.
But the sky was amazing, we survived the whole thing, it was cold but lovely, the sound of the ocean all night was so much better than the ocean setting on the white noise machine, the dogs had long long walks on the beach and most of all, I put my foot down and we came home today. I towed the camper back over the bridge, which was completely terrifying but I did it and then we were home, where the cat had decided to piss all over the bathroom to express her displeasure at not being invited.
Since we got home it is like it all just happened or maybe never happened or possibly it happened, but 6000 years ago. I think it’s a delayed trauma reaction but I feel floaty and out of it and I don’t think I have ever been so, damn so, glad to be home.
Cheers! We’re alive!