Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Charles, Tents & Grit Man: Chapter 4

Digging up past adventures is the theme of several recent posts. Today’s is no different. Welcome to Part 4 of our “Summer in a Richmond RV Park” adventure!

Before sharing the story of our trip to Assateague Island, let me start by saying that life in an RV park with Charles (aka: black tooth lithsper) is fascinating. A few days ago, he came zipping down the road on his bike. Dust was flying and rocks were flung in the air has he rounded the corner by our camper. I was watching him, mouth wide open (I’m certain a few bugs flew in), when a truck came careening down the road closely on his tail. I was terrified for the child, certain that this crazy driver must’ve been some irresponsible teen or an intoxicated park resident. Turns out it was his father who was yelling loudly out of the window while trying to chase him down. I spoke with a “long term” gal who lives in the park. She was adamant that Charles wreaks havoc everywhere he goes. Kind of like the “Dennis the Mennace” of the campground. Easy for her to laugh; he hasn’t tried to drown HER child.

We needed a getaway, an adventure, something exciting to pull us out of the “RV Park” dull-drums. So last week, while my mother-in-law Sally was still here, we drove to Assateague Island, which is by Chincoteague. If any of you have ever read the Misty of Chincoteague books when you were young then you’ll recognize the names. Wild ponies live on the island and are supposed to have descended from horses that survived sinking Spanish galleons several hundred years ago. Over the years, the ponies have adapted to the harsh environment and the island is now a national refuge.

It took us four hours to get there. We took a few wrong turns, to say the least. In Norfolk, we stopped at a 7-11 because Marah had to potty…and we needed directions… and women know how to ask. The cashier at 7-11 responded very abruptly/nastily/harshly/irritatingly and told me "we don’t have a public restroom but you can drive to a truck stop somewhere down the road and find one" (I wanted to say “no shit Sherlock”). Mind you, Marah is grabbing her crotch and whining. She has this thing with her crotch – has since she was born. I figure it was just one more thing to add to the bugger eating and ways to gross out her mother. It is at this point I will add the all-important disclaimer to prevent future therapy: she does NOT, any longer, currently have a “crotch thing” or “bugger thing” going on. It was only during her younger years. Sigh.

As we walked out of the 7-11, home of the hateful worker, an extremely kind patron who had overheard the conversation said “Come on down to my shop and you can use our restroom!”

She had a hair salon a few doors down so Sally and Brody joined us. While obtaining directions (this was a full service salon, let me tell you), Brody crawled up on the hair cutting chair. Remember the hair cut I had given him in the trailer park with kitchen shears? It was then that I noticed how completely awful it truly was. The bangs in particular were several different lengths.

I figured they let us use the bathroom, so we owed them. In addition, the stylist had flaming red dyed hair, a nose ring, lip ring, multiple tattoos, and this sort of peaceful new wave aura about her. I decided it was a sign…and let’s be honest, you know where this is going.

Ffifteen minutes and $20 later (which included an $8 tip of pure gratitude) Brody walked out with a shining new hair cut.

“What the hell did you do, put a bowl on his head?” was his father’s response when he saw him later that day.

We drove for an entire year but finally made it to the Assateague National Wildlife Refuge. I’m kidding… it only felt like a year. Seriously, it was the longest drive in recorded history. The wild ponies are only on this island and once a year they weed out some of the colts in order to keep the population at 150. We had to take a special tour bus because the area where the ponies live is off limits to all but walkers and it would’ve been an impossible hike with the kids.

Dottie was our tour bus driver. Dottie was about 65 or 70 years old and clearly from New Joysey. Yes, I meant to spell it like that. She had this rough, cackling voice, like she had smoked 3 packs of Lucky Strikes a day since WWII. She was actually quite adorable, at least to most of us.

When any kind of critter moved outside, she pointed it out. Someone tried to eat on the bus and she screamed bloody murder over the loudspeaker “Des NO eatin’ on da bus!!”

When we ran into a group of Amish people riding their bikes out in the horse area, we all knew there would be trouble (who am I kidding; I don't know if they were Amish exactly...or Mennonite...they were just dressed like it...bottom line is they SHOULD have known better!). You see, they would’ve had to drag their bikes under a fence while ignoring the huge “no biking” signs in order to get into this area. Dottie slammed on the brakes so hard we had to pry Brody off of the dash. Then she told them, in no uncertain terms “Des no bikes here, you’s gotta go back! Did’n you see da sign?” Then she called the park ranger, who later met us so that she could head him in the right direction to catch the criminals in the act.

Marah and Brody were given these cute little pins from a woman across from us on the bus. She was from Muskogee, Oklahoma, and had brought a bag of “Okie From Muskogee” pins with her to hand out on their journey. Seriously, we live three hours from Oklahoma but had to travel all the way to the Atlantic Ocean to find “Okie From Muskogee” buttons. I’m linking the song for those of you feeling nostalgic. You are welcome.

Another woman, who was a retired school teacher from Cincinnati, kept making fun of Dottie, which made many of the bus riders more than a little irritated. We all liked Dottie. Every time Dottie would point out an endangered squirrel living in the protection of the refuge, most of the bus would issue a collective "ooh, poor wittle critter" sigh. The retired teacher, however, would loudly mumble “hell, come to my back yard and I’ll show you plenty of them”. Or she’d mutter “Geez, endangered? Why don't you look out the window some time.”

I love being around new people! Don’t you? Just remember, if you ever visit Assateauge Island, take the bus. And don't bring any food, otherwise you'll have to face Dottie. Believe me, you don't want to face Dottie. Just ask the Amish.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Charles, Tents & Grit Man: Chapter 3

This is the third post written from the summer of 2007 when our family spent two months in Richmond, VA; Brian was there for work. We decided to make an adventure out of the trip and hauled our 19 foot long toy hauler RV to live in. The following is a portion of my "email diary".

The automobile situation is looking up. Our first Friday here, which meant it was just in time for the weekend when Brian is here and I HAVE an automobile, he let me take over driving one the rentals that one of his project managers had been using. It was due back the next Monday. Is it just me, or does he get it?

Regardless, this meant that on Saturday I was able to get away from the trailer park for the first time since we arrived early last week. In honor of this momentous occasion I actually went to the mall!! After purchasing a few new articles of classic trailer park wear, I decided to get a pedicure. An Asian boy in the 11th grade was my nail technician and I think he forgot to buff one heal. Other than that, my French pedicure looks good (what IS it with this place?). He was bemoaning the fact that his mom made him get up at 9:00 am in order to go to work. Aren’t there child labor laws which exclude high school boys from performing state licensed services in Virginia? And before you ask, I swear to God I’m not making this up.

When I got back to camp, Brian had made the acquaintance of Charles. He has a name now, this black-toothed lithsper. His only comment to me was “that kid is kind of an asshole, isn’t he?” Unfortunately, he also made this comment out loud at the pool. For those of you who don’t know my husband, he doesn’t really have much of a filter. I’m waiting for our trailer to be egged some night in retaliation.

My lovely mother-in-law Sally arrived yesterday to stay through Friday and help out. She is an absolute blessing and is staying in a Marriot Residence…she’s no fool. She took Marah last night; Brody then decided to worm his way into our bed. My ribs are bruised but I’m pretty sure he slept great.

Sally couldn’t help laughing at how far I’ve fallen; from getting $20 hair cuts at Shear Madness for Brody to butchering his mop myself with kitchen shears out of desperation while stuck in the trailer park. Remember, I HAD NO TRANSPORTATION FOR A WEEK. I apologize. It is not a trailer park, it’s a Campground. And I apologize for yelling. It's just that he really needed a hair cut.

The tent people moved last night, but left their tent. People in Richmond sure are funny.

Marah, who spent each night she could in the Marriot with Sally, was overcome with excitement. The first night, she kept going on and on about how nice the room was:

“Look Grandma! This bed is so comfy!”

“Look Grandma! This place has cable!”

“Look Grandma! This bathroom is huge!”

You would’ve thought the child grew up in a West Virginia coal mining town instead of Johnson County, living in a house with three full bathrooms. How soon they forget.

Actually, to be completely honest, Brian and I stayed in the room one night while Sally stayed in the trai…oops, I mean RV with the kids. Blessed heaven. I took a bath and felt like I was at the Taj Majal. Brian attempted to enter the sacred room of meditation and Linda Blair returned. I admit to a little shame upon realizing she had taken up "prn" ("as needed" in hospital speak) residence within me. He got the message and left me to quiet serenity & squeaky clean peace.

When we first walked into the room, words weren’t necessary. Sometimes, as a couple, we are in such sync! He jumped into one bed and I jumped into the other. After my bath, goose bumps appeared when I found CNN and the History Channel. I think Sally expected a night of romance for us. After walking on top of each other for over a week, we wanted blessed space.

I actually got more excited the next day because they have a continental breakfast every morning. WhooEEE, there I was, overcome with excitement because there were little RV size packets of jelly, and honey….and lo and behold, flavored coffee mate! The big problem was figuring out how to get out of there with a bag full of these tiny little RV sized treats without drawing attention to myself.

After pondering the situation for a few moments, I decided to act wealthy and weird (okay, eccentric if you will) and march right on in there like I owned the place. I ended up resembling a ping pong ball before it was over. These were my moves: I grab a handful of jelly, drop it into the little bag, then bounce over to the coffee mate, running into Mr. Refined Business Man. “Excuse me Sir”, I mumble, then head back over to the honey. I’ll be damned, he’s there now. My bag still had allot of room in it, so I headed back to the coffee mate (a weakness, I must confess) and for God’s sake, he’s right there now filling his coffee cup! By now, I can tell he’s looking at me and my bag with a small sort of contempt. I’m in my RV park clothes (I have no need of anything else) which equates to a t-shirt and cut off jean shorts, but I know I don’t smell! I stayed in a Marriot the night before and had bath in the room of tranquility!

By now, I can feel other eyes on me so I just grab some apples and oranges, fill up the ol’ coffee cup again and start to head out.

Just as I reach the door, I spot cranberry juice and muffins! I’m having a hard time juggling the drinks but have lugged more than this many times before (mothers, you understand) and am more than up to the challenge. As I head through the lobby (and yes, there is laughter behind me) the man and woman at the desk, who had been talking, stop mid-sentence and stare at me with their mouths open. I say “thanks!” and they respond as good employees should with a “come see us again.” They watched me walk to the rental and drive away.

Speaking of the rental, I DO have a rental car now until we find something more permanent. The cheapest, crappiest automobile Enterprise had on their lot, I swear. Brian says it smells like Fido’s ass. He is renowned for possessing a rare and colorful vocabulary. I do have to agree with him. This current auto is a Chevy Cobalt and the only option it provides is air conditioning. I must admit, I’ve become spoiled by electric locks. It’s a real pain the arse to unlock four doors all of the time when hauling around two kids. How did they do it during the days of covered wagons?

The brakes do this funny gagagagagagagagagagagagagaga sound whenever I have to quickly apply them, which happens often in this part of the country. My God, they drive like fools out here; three people died last week just down the road from where we are staying in accidents. But never fear! Mr. Smart Consumer Brian has found a car to buy for me. He is paying less than the blue book price and feels certain he can sell it for at least the same amount, if not more, at the end of the summer. This is a potential bonus that makes him spin and twirl. It isn’t too bad. I think he got the message when I put up opposition to driving a car with 200,000 miles or more. The “new” car is a Dodge Neon with 75,000 miles, air conditioning and a CD player. That’s it. It’s a standard so I’m back to driving a stick, which I haven’t really done since high school and there are no electric locks or windows. But….and this is a big but, it doesn’t smell like Fido’s ass. Bonus!

Speaking of Brian and money…..he received an email from the owner of his company last week. She found out about our living situation and wrote “Get a hotel, ya cheap bastard!” To which he replied: “I’m not cheap, just frugal. The kids love it; the wife?”

We drove to Assateage Island and saw the wild ponies from Chincoteague but I’ll have to write about them later. I’ll tell you about our guide Dottie as well. Dottie is from New Jersey and the story of our time together is quite funny. Brian just got home so we are returning the rock star rental car (aka: Fido's Ass) and picking up the super cool Neon. As long as I have wheels, I don’t care if it’s a Gremlin (okay, that’s a lie). You know what I mean: wheels equate freedom and freedom equates happiness. And safety while going to Cinnabon.

Until next week,