This past summer when we learned that the radiation didn't kill my cancer, we started looking into what we want to do, rather than dwelling on what we need to do. So much of our lives are directed (or dictated) by what we think we need to do. So we went to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis thinking that we needed to do something and we found that it gave us the opportunity to do things we had talked about but were just too busy to pursue. My previous post on the zoo being one.
We decided that the weather was right, and now that we were travelling past the Mark Twain National Forest on a weekly basis, we should get a tent and go camping on the way there, or back. We are not experienced campers. I loved the great outdoors as a kid and Lisa, with her Butterfly Photography, is a person who can spend hours in the fields and streams. But in a tent? Of course! We are mighty campers, close to nature, and now with fighting cancer, shouldn't I get closer to NATURE.
My last attempt at camping was years ago when we had a huge Winnebago. Gas range, hot water, microwave, television, shower, toilet.....did I call this Camping? I thought so at the time and the kids sure seemed to enjoy it! But now, it was time to get real: Sleep on the ground, build a fire for real use instead of just looks, and get back to the way of the great pioneers that built this wonderful country! What was I thinking? Has the Chemo-Brain kicked into overdrive?
Number 1: If you have not slept on the ground in over 50 years - DO NOT DO IT! It hurts.
Number 2: Trying to heat water for coffee in a ladle over an open flame works but it isn't easy!
Number 3: Didn't remember it being so darn dark.
The opportunity did come. We were on the quest in St. Louis and realized that we were about half way to Akron and should run on up to see the family. A short drive of 500 miles, but Lisa loves to drive, I think! The family was having a picnic that weekend and it would be a great opportunity to see many of them. And yes, we could camp on the way home.
The time in Akron was great. Mary Jo and Denny parked their RV in Kelly and Bill's driveway to give us a place to stay and get the "camping" state of mind. We looked like Cousin Eddy from Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation movie. Leaving Akron, we decided to take a southern route through Kentucky then over to Missouri. Lisa had not seen Kentucky and it is some very beautiful country. So off we went. Driving into Kentucky it started to get late in the day. The thought again crossed my mind: "we are not experienced campers!". Where do we go? What do we do? What does the tent look like when you get it out of the box? All the while a huge storm is circling the area.
"Next exit....a State Campground" I informed Lisa with all the confidence of someone that had any idea of what they we doing. Lisa said "great". I think she meant it. There it is Big Bone Lick State Park! Not sure of what "Big Bone Lick" could possibly be...maybe a Kentucky Bar-B-Que classic or something. We made it to the campground with a little wind and lightning around the area and yes, it was dark.
It had to be quite a sight for the very few veteran campers (that were already set for the night) to see a 57 year old man beat up by cancer and his pint sized wife, struggling to find which part of the tent was required to go in the air and how to accomplish such a feat. And yes, it was dark...but we had a little flashlight. How resourcefully and prepared! Later, after the tent was up, we realized that the headlights of car that got us there could have been very useful in the tent adventure.
We inflated the air mattress and tossed it into the tent. Lisa grabbed the cooler and we enjoyed a dinner of tuna fish sandwiches and various snack food. Ah, the great outdoor. Was I tired? Do the bears cra....., well you get the idea. Speaking of bears, around 3:00 A.M., my beautiful bride whispers to me (I loved the whisper because none of the veteran campers were anyway near shouting distance of us rookies) she whispered " I think that's a bear outside in the woods". I liked the "outside" and "in the woods" part but the BEAR part still woke me up like a triple espresso, intravenously administered!
"A bear?" I asked Lisa and then I heard the cracking of something large walking just behind our tent, breaking fallen branched....it must be a BIG bear. Then Lisa continued her whisper "....and I have to go pee.". The Restroom / Shower house (very clean and somewhat bear proof) was about 100 yards from our tent. Lisa could run that far very quickly with her little Mighty Mouse run, after all she has been known to catch run-a-way wheelchairs, and I could lag behind and use my cane to fight off the bear, and yes, be her hero! So we quietly and slowly unzipped the tent door and out we went knowing the the restroom had to be a bear proof haven. With cane in hand I was prepared to defend my wife with life and limb. As I glanced back a the woods, I saw the creature, it was staring at me! It must have been some type of Kentucky Bear that I am not familiar with as it was sort of brown, but it had antlers. It must have seen the cane as it ran back into the wood like a scalded dog! I'm so brave! I didn't tell Lisa about the antlers right away, only that I scared the "Bear" (deer) of into the woods, oh, her hero I was.
The next day we truly enjoyed the park. It was fascinating and a wonderful, educational experience. They have a great website http://parks.ky.gov/findparks/recparks/bb/ if you want to discover what the "Big Bones" are. Later we did hear the screech of a monkey in the trees but decided it must have been a Kentucky bird of some sort....did I mention we are not experienced campers!
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Loving Life and Fighting Cancer,
Please support and read up on cancer awareness at the American Cancer Web site http://www.cancer.org/