22 September 2009

Headed for the hills -- part V

It is funny how different people react to different situations. Take Jean, for example. Despite the rain and lack of anything similar to air in the air mattress, see was completely unaffected and slept like a rock for the rest of the night. On the other hand, I tossed, turned and grunted throughout the darkness, unable to sleep for more than half an hour at a time. When dawn finally made its watery appearance, I was tired (obviously) and achy (the result of lying on wrinkled vinyl all night).

I awoke first and found two things: 1) it was still raining, and hard from the sound of it; and 2) a good deal of water had found its way into the tent. Our midnight efforts at dam building in the dark were obviously not up to snuff.

I woke Jean, and we began to clean up the mess, with the rain pattering steadily on the top of the tent. But something happened that morning, something completely and utterly cool: We shrugged it off without a second thought. Where it would have been oh-so easy to start to bitchin' and moanin' about the wet and the mess and so forth, we didn't. We smiled and got to work. This was our vacation, and a little bit of rain wasn't going to spoil our fun! We made the best of it, cleaning out the tent as well as we could before we thought about doing something about breakfast.

Our stomachs were growling, Jean and I both needed coffee in the worst way, and we had a 10-mile paddle ahead of us later in the morning. A good breakfast would be invaluable. We had plenty of food, but it was all designed to be eaten cooked (I've never been one much for raw eggs). My plan all along had been to do all our cooking over an open fire, so we did not bring a camp stove. Even though from inside the tent it sounded like it was raining much harder than it actually was, it was still a very soggy morning. Building a fire in such weather would be difficult; not having any firewood made it impossible. I made a quick trek to the camp store to see about getting one of the handy bundles of wood they sold, but I found it closed, not to open for another two hours.

When I got back to camp, we made the only decision available: We would go into the town of Independence to see what awaited us there.

We got into the car and headed back toward civilization. This was our first good glimpse of the landscape, and both Jean and I were suitably impressed. We were surrounded by steep green hills, many topped with row after row of fir trees, others home to rolling meadows and cattle. Although the morning was gray and overcast, it was a beautiful sight. We passed a few barns but very few vehicles on our ten-minute drive into town.

I say "town" because Independence is one, albeit one with but a single traffic light. My first impression was that it was little more than a slightly wider spot in a very narrow road. An old courthouse sat in the small square along the main drag, and it was here that we turned to see what we could find in the way of vittles. We drove past the local high school just beginning to hum with Friday morning activity, then past a small shopping center with a grocery and a Mexican restaurant. A block or two further, and we were back into the countryside. We turned back around, and eventually pulled into a small restaurant across the street from the high school.
The sign outside proclaimed Aunt Bea's Express, and when we walked in the door, we found the place a good two-thirds full. We checked the menu; it consisted of short-order grill items, much like a diner, with a fairly extensive listing for breakfast items. A procession of locals walked to the counter and placed their orders, including a cheerleader in uniform who got a biscuit before walking out the door to school. We guessed it was pep rally day. A posse of old men sat and talked in one corner of the restaurant; like in small towns across America, the town's elders were holding morning court over coffee and scrambled eggs.

Jean and I got in line and placed our orders, and it wasn't long before we both had piping hot plates in front of us, with steaming black coffee in styrofoam cups on the side. I tore open two small packets of sugar and dumped them into my cup, then grinned at Jean as I stirred the coffee. It was going to be a good day.

To be continued...

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