“It’s a good thing you’re doing this before you get the wife and kids buddy. The only reason I’m on my bike riding out here is that my boy finally turned 26 and is free clear out of my hair!”
These were the words of encouragement from Caesar from Miami. Caesar has a thick Hispanic accent and rides a bad ass Harley Davidson, or at least I assumed it was a Harley Davidson, because to me all bad ass motorcycles are Harley’s. Caesar is awesome.
He was driving back from Denver, Colorado and driving through the Blue Ridge Parkway at the same time as I was.
“Hell, if I didn’t do it now, I’d have to wait another 26 years huh!” I jokingly replied.
I had just gotten done trying out a new drone I had bought while in Washington DC, which I hadn’t had an opportunity to fly yet. As you can imagine DC has quite a few ‘no fly’ laws for drones in the DC area. And by quite a few, I mean, only fly a drone in the DC metro area if for some reason you’re looking to be detained by the NSA or some other government agency for the next 25 years. Personally, I am not. As such I waited until I was well clear of any airports or government centers to give my drove a test flight.
Caesar had seen the drove from the side of road, and had pulled over to make conversation.
I love meeting random people on the road.
The roads of the Blue Ridge Parkway are winding and weaving. And I’m glad I’ve ‘worked my way up‘ to this area in regards to figuring out what footage I actually use on the blog, and what ultimately just goes in my now growing private collection of photos and video clips.
There are so many portions of this parkway that make you think that you’re driving through a postcard it’s ridiculous. The leaves have just begun to show a hint of yellow on their edges, so I’m encouraged that I’ll be here for the full change.
While here in the Blue Ridge Mountains I also decided to make a declaration of manhood, and to make the plunge to finally camp out in an actual tent in the wilderness for the night. No cabin, no couchsurfing, no ‘stealth urban camping’ for me tonight.
That, and the ‘stealth urban camping’ option of a Wal-Mart parking lot was clearly out for the night out here in the woods.
That said, I did make a quick stop at a Wal-Mart before leaving Charlottesville to round out my camping supplies before heading out into the actual wildness.
Batteries…check… Camp lighter…check… Emergency blanket… check… Can of vegetarian chili mix??… sure what the hell. Check!
I show up at the campgrounds well after the camp office and store had closed. But I did have the foresight to call in advance and let them know I was coming. They had politely taped a paper map of available tent sites to the outside of the ‘camp store’ for me to know where was acceptable for me to park.
However I have a history of being notoriously bad with hand drawn paper maps. There just seems to be a disconnect with my brain in regards to the part that has common sense, and the part that can read maps.
I pulled up the hill to what I assumed was the ‘tent area’ and found a small mini-van parked in a separate lot. The couple with the mini-van already had an impressive spread laid out on the accompanying picnic table. Clearly these people were experienced campers and knew what they were doing. I would need to ‘act cool’ and pretend I knew what I was doing as well.
I pull along aside to confirm that I was in the right spot for the night. And to my personal delight, was greeted by two lovely German accents. I love Germans! Or as I affectionately refer to them in my horrible impersonation of a German accent ‘Da GeR-Muns!’
For the record I did not butcher their native tongue in front of them, and attempted as best I could to convey the best impression possible of the US, given that they’d just mistaken setup camp next to a guy from Indiana.
Dinner With My New German Friends
Like good Germans they invited me to join them for a bit before retiring for bed. They were on their ‘honeymoon’ of sorts in the United States heading south and then west. Ultimately planning on going to South America.
They both had done a fair amount of travel before, but were looking forward to seeing the US. The girl Bettina’s mother had done a similar trek twenty years before when she was younger as well.
It was amusing to hear about some of the struggles they had while adjusting to America. One of which is that everything is sold is such large portion sizes at the grocery store. Given their travel needs, they were often having to buy far more of products than what they needed for the next stop.
As we shared travel stories that evening the gentlemen Ingo asked me at three separate points in the conversation.
“So… you’re really going to sleep in the tent tonight?…but, you have the car… you better ‘bundle up snug… snug as a bug as they say??”
I thanked him for his concern and let him know, that it wasn’t an option for me for the night. This was a trip of firsts, and a rite of passage, to add ‘gone camping alone’ to the list of things I’ve done. He smiled, at my response, and asked again… ‘ya, but it’s going to get really really cold tonight’… I laughed and let him know not to worry about me.
After dinner I went back to my camp site and started a roaring fire, the likes of which few men have ever seen, or will ever see. That’s probably a dramatization, but I did start a fire all by myself and damn it I was proud! But I knew not to mention it on Facebook because I have a number of friends who are either lifelong avid hikers or are ex-active duty military. And the idea of bragging about being able to camp alone and start a fire in the woods by myself, probably ranks right up there with “Hey guys! Guest what! At 33, I just learned how to tie my shoes ALL by myself! Isn’t that great!”
I mean, you’re proud of the kid for learning to tie his shoes… but he is 33.
I sat there in the glow of the fire for the night and enjoyed the silence of the woods. Reflecting on the difference in between being up in the Blue Ridge Mountains opposed to West Virginia where the Buddhist Monastry is located. A lot less bugs in Virginia. I don’ know if that was because it was a campground, or because of the dangerous frost advisory that had been issued for the night by the state of Virginia.
I stayed up late watching the embers glow and die out. I did go to boy scouts as a kid, so I’m not a total nub at these things and know to wait until the embers are well out before going to bed.
The tent was set. The air pad inflated. And the thermal form yoga mat type thing rolled out. I was ready for my first ‘camping in the woods by myself experience’. And I realized exactly how god awful cold it really was. I mean, wow! Frost advisory really!?! You don’t say.
With much reluctance and little sheepishness. I said to myself. “Wellllll…. I did setup the tent, and I did everything else needed to go camping…Does it really matter if I sleep in the car instead of the tent. Like I jokingly tell my dad, I really do consider my camper car my ‘metal tent on wheels that I drive from town to town’.
And with that I made the decision to not get frost bite for the evening. Setup the curtains, another peaceful night in my home on wheels.
I did get to see my German friends once more in the morning and they were nice enough to share their pancake mix with me. I felt it wise to follow the words of the Buddha to graciously take what’s graciously offered. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I was trying to stay on a low-carb diet. Low-carb diets and the road can be hard to mix at times.
We parted ways and back on the road I went.
As I’ve been learning the past four weeks. A lot of travel isn’t so much the planned interactions that you plan for before your trip. It’s all the little unplanned ones that really make it worth having ventured out on the road to begin with.