Surf 'n Turf
We took a rare three-day weekend to head to the beach and camp. The concept of sleeping in a tent has always been a romantic idea to me, but when it comes to actually doing it, I can't help but feel like I'm zipping myself up in a water-resistant body bag to save somebody the trouble later. I hate being the creamy filling in a giant bear Twinkie. I never sleep well with the sound of tree limbs deciding to topple down around us when they were perfectly sturdy during the daylight or enormous-sounding creatures rummaging through our campsite. Don't get me wrong -- I'll do it, and I'm definitely not a wimp when it comes to the outdoors by any means, but I simply appreciate being comfortable while I'm having a good time. Add a toddler to the mix, and it's a must. I'm also fairly certain that 10 years ago I wasn't crippled for two days after a night of sleeping on a leaky air mattress atop a layer of lumpy volcanic rock.
Our state has a handful of campgrounds that offer the rental of small structures called "yurts." The original yurt was a type of tent-like, timber-fortified shelter used by Central Asian nomads for hundreds of years. The ones for rent here are roomy, contain sturdy, comfortable furniture, and, most importantly, are heated.
A large group of us headed for the campground this weekend. We were three of approximately 22 old and new friends of all ages from all over who rented a row of yurts and consecutive RV spaces to enjoy the weekend together. My friend Shaena and her family traveled with us. We followed each other over two mountain ranges through progressively gloomy weather until we could finally see the whitecaps of the Pacific Ocean. We moved our belongings into our yurts and walked down the trail with our friends to the beach. Instead of running directly into the sea this time, Erik sprinted up and down the sand in his little yellow raincoat, and my friends were amazed at how quickly the boy could travel. It was readily apparent he was going to enjoy the weekend. He was happy to see so many people together.
The girls cooked dinner the first night. I threw chicken fajitas in my Crock Pot and simmered the mixture all afternoon inside our yurt. I scrapped my original plan of barbecuing when I realized it would probably be pouring down rain while I did this and I opted not to fry meat with rainwater pooling in my brassiere. We gathered at Randy and Leanne's yurt for dinner, and we ate a variety of salads, meats, and desserts with a mostly Mexican theme under portable rain canopies. There was a nice campfire to warm up to and an impressive selection of spirits. The mood was festive, and even Samantha and Erik enjoyed the evening immensely. The rain really magically seemed to stay at bay every time we wanted to be outside. We had more friends joining us later who had to drive over the mountains, and, unfortunately, an impressive storm swept over our heads and went on to create a snowstorm on the pass. They made it safely but reported it was snowing hard. There were reportedly two inches of snow in our yard while we were miles away enjoying sweatshirt weather on the beach.
The first night was a bit rough at first. Erik sobbed when it was time to retire, and we ended up sandwiching him between us in our flannel sleeping bag until his breathing deepened and he slipped into sleep. The storm brought massive rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightning, the likes of which I had never experienced on the coast before, especially in October. The yurt didn't budge one millimeter in the wind, and our heater kept us toasty.
The next day after a wonderful, hot shower at the campground's facilities, we hit the historic waterfront in town. It's a must to get a cup of clam chowder at our favorite ancient restaurant downtown, and a large group of us went there for lunch. I had chowder and fish and chips washed down with an ice-cold beer. Erik enjoyed a grilled cheese and potato chips. We crossed the street to the docks after lunch, and a young couple gave Erik some crackers to feed the pigeons with. He was a little frozen physically but seemed to really enjoy having the chubby, cooing creatures milling around him, their feathers occasionally flashing purple and green in the afternoon light. I spotted a healthy-looking seal cruising the water along the canneries and fish packing plants looking for snacks of slimy chum or anything else that might happen to get lobbed over the railing by tourists. We visited the candy store and filled crisp, white paper bags with every flavor of saltwater taffy imaginable (even butter, which gave the girls a horrible case of the giggles for some reason). We then drove into the more modern, less odoriferous part of town to get supplies, and Shaena and I were able to steal a little time away together like the old days before marriage and children. She bought a saucy, purple hat, and I ended up being sorry I didn't buy one as well. My big purchase was a container of antibacterial wipes.
Back at the campground Brian and Erik left to watch the Oregon game in a luxury RV bus that belonged to part of our group. I found time to light my favorite Yankee candle, chew on an alarming amount of taffy, and read almost an entire book for the first time in months. I occasionally put my book down on my lap to rest my eyes and listened. I could hear the sound of happy birds, the sharp laughter of my friends down the road, and raindrops hitting the plastic skylight in the yurt, but underneath it all was the unyielding, powerful roar of the ocean. I closed my eyes and could almost feel it vibrating through my body and my surroundings. It was strange that I didn't hear this powerful, constant roar unless I stopped to listen.
Saturday night brought more feasting like royalty. We dined on ham, potatoes, steak, chicken, and more salads and desserts. Leanne brought a cake for October birthdays, and when she heard Erik mention his obsession with birthdays and birthday candles, she and a couple of the girls found a long fireplace match that they lit and anchored in the frosting. We sang to Erik, and he blew it out, looking pleased but a bit surprised we made such a fuss over him yet again. I do love my friends. Everybody treated Erik like they would their own child, and he was welcomed by everyone even though he was almost constantly in motion and chattering sometimes incoherently about trucks and heavy construction equipment. After this, many of us hit our bunks early to drift to sleep to the horrible, feral screams of a bloody raccoon death match in the tree above the location of our evening's feast.
Sunday morning after a decent night of rest, we packed our things. Of everyone in our group, Erik was especially fond of Leanne's father, whom he called "Crazy Don." Don was sweet enough to hold him upon request and make an impressive variety of tractor and truck noises. I was happy to learn that Don and his wife Norma had a 30-cup coffee maker in their yurt. If I ever tired of the lonely silence in our yurt, I wandered to over to theirs or to Shaena's parents' camper for more hot coffee and a lively chat.
We said our goodbyes and were back to our original group of two families. We headed down the windy coastal highway to a busy little restaurant for breakfast and consumed plates of omelets, hashbrowns, and fluffy, maple syrup saturated pancakes before heading back over the mountains again. The storm had long passed, and the roads were clear all the way home. Except for two bouts of sobbing that seemed to go on forever and a very awkward, unattractive diaper change on the side of the highway that required me to hold my increasingly lanky child's legs and bare buttocks out of the vehicle while I changed his pants and he screamed bloody murder, we all made it home safely without much drama at all.
The only part of the trip I disliked was attempting to find the outhouse in the dark without my contact lenses in (and the way back to the correct yurt with the correct family inside). Oh, and I gained three pounds in three days.
It was completely worth it!