Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Potato Salad, Endangered Birds, Sand Spiders and the Fat Bastard

The first 4th of July that k-ster and I were together, he had grand plans that we would take his truck camper out on the beach and spend the weekend there.  Because that is what he did summer weekends for his entire childhood.

I wasn't especially excited about this idea for a lot of reasons, but the major one I will point out is that there were thunderstorms predicted for the weekend.  Psssshhhht, he said.  We'll be fine.  If it rains, we'll go inside.

Have you ever been inside a truck camper?  Two people in a truck camper in the rain, on a beach, for a weekend;  it's a recipe for madness.

Reluctantly, I got everything ready.  And by everything, I mean I made potato salad with a lot of onions.

I was 22.  Apparently I thought that was high class beach food.

I can't remember bringing any other food or drink.  

So, off we went on a very sunny day, to spend 2 nights on the beach, enjoying the 4th with  whomever happened to show up at the beach.

I had been off roading at the beach a total of once before this and it wasn't really my thing.  Making your truck moan and groan up and down hills in thick sand doesn't really excite me, but the views are lovely and it's nice to be out there.  Sort of. So maybe it's worth it?

I'm not really a get-me-away-from-civilization kind of person.  I like convenient things like running water, electricity and bathrooms.  Yes, a truck camper can have all of that.

Except this one was older than both of us and really heavy on his truck.  Unlike today's campers which are made of fiberglass and weightlessness, that camper felt like it was made of concrete.

And it didn't have a working bathroom.

Surely I've mentioned somewhere on here that I have a bladder the size of a flea (as in, the size of a flea's bladder, not the size of the whole flea) and I HATE going to the bathroom in non bathrooms.  I'll do it, but it's not my choice.

So, we crawled up and down the hills to get out to the farthest point we could, which back in those days was about 30 minutes further than you can drive today thanks to erosion.  The whole way, the truck moaned and groaned (he'll say it didn't but I heard it whining) and I was sure the camper was going to just roll right off.

When we got to just the right spot, I of course, had to pee, so off into the dunes I went.

The dunes are not really as private as they appear, so basically, when you run up into them, it's like having a spotlight on you so the whole beach knows you are going to do something "secret" up in the dunes.  The choice is the dunes or the ocean.  And the water is cold enough that most people don't do a lot of casual swimming, so if someone's going in, it's likely they have to pee. 

There are no secrets on the beach.

I kept thinking: what have I gotten myself into????

Once we parked, k-ster had a plan to make a spot for our portable toilet outside the camper.  It involved digging a hole to set it in and tying up tarps for privacy.  This was way before they made those little pop up tents that people use for changing during triathlons and stuff.

As I sit here writing this, I feel like this story took place in the dark ages.  This was way before wifi was prevalent, I hadn't even thought of owning a cell phone, k-ster's phone was about one step up from a bag phone and people still did things like write letters and have patience for packages to arrive weeks after orders were placed.  On landlines.

But I digress.

So, with the help of some friends who had shown up, k-ster's friends who I didn't know, the outdoor bathroom was set up.  I had a flashing thought of "what if we have to leave in some sort of hurry?  We'll never get this all put away!"

This must have been about 2pm.  Still glorious weather, rolling surf, and me wondering what I was going to do on the beach for 2 days with a bunch of people I don't know.  I'm not a sun worshipper, the water was FRIGID and I didn't have a wetsuit back then, and really, I still wasn't thrilled about any of this.

But, at least I had a toilet to go in so I didn't have to brave the water or the dunes.

The onions in the potato salad in the refrigerator were starting to permeate everything.  And if there's anything gross when you're stuck in a camper of any size, it's the smell of from the refrigerator punctuating every breath you take.

It dawned on us that we hadn't brought drinking water, or if we had, it wasn't any kind of sufficient amount for 2 days, so k-ster must have used his newfangled cell phone to call people who were going to be coming out later.  He had one of those 5 gallon water jugs in his room and told someone to fill it.  I remember thinking it would be filthy because it had been sitting in his room and what guy is going to think about washing it out first.  I imagined we'd have dusty water that no one could drink.

Eventually, the water bearing friends arrived.  As they got fairly close to where we were parked, the passenger, whom I'll call Frank (no names except k-ster's are real, to protect these fools) hopped out of the truck.  And didn't close the door.  The driver, whom I'll call Pete, kept driving, and then, I'm still not sure why, he backed up, with the passenger side door open.  And promptly folded the door back against the truck as it hit a pole that had a sign warning that endangered birds were nesting nearby and to stay away.

I didn't know doors could do that.

I felt impending doom.

They managed to get the door going the right way and it closed, so on they came to continue setting up this camp that I kept thinking would never come down and get put away easily.

What if someone had an attack of appendicitis?  What if someone broke a limb?  We'd never get off this beach in time and we'd be driving off a corpse in the camper.

At some point, I must have gone in the water or took a walk or did something to occupy myself because time went by and night came.  And along with night, a lot more people arrived.

Including Ted and a separate group of people whose names I never learned.  I'm not even sure k-ster knew most of the people in that group.  Ted mentioned that he had a fuel tank that was leaking.  I wasn't impressed that he brought a leaky truck onto the beach, but he too had spent every summer weekend of his childhood on the beach with k-ster, so what did I know?

These boys were pros, right?

Time marched on, people came, potato salad may have been eaten but those onions were now stinking up everything within a 10 mile radius, the bottle of water was too big for me to manhandle myself to pour into a cup to drink, I was sandy, it was damp which is not fun when you're sandy, people were drinking and I was not, and I just kept thinking this had to be a dream.

And then the fireworks came out.

I think fireworks are one of the dumbest things ever.  To sit there and watch little bombs explode-- another rant for another day.

But fireworks in the hands of 20-somethings who have been drinking just pushes me over the edge.

K-ster assured me they'd do it away from us.  Because we had a propane tank and scuba tanks in there, both of which would go up like rockets.  Lighting them  near us would be ridiculous and if there's anything a group of drunk 20 year old boys isn't, it's ridiculous.

A few firecrackers were lit, the boys all cheered and oohed and ahhed and then the group of people who none of us really knew, hauled out the big boy.

Out came THE FAT BASTARD.  In my memory, this thing was round, like a slide carousel from old slide projectors, and FILLED with all sort of explosives.  I remember the leader of this rogue group being super excited about THE FAT BASTARD and it soon became the talk of the night.  They were all excited to light it off.

I must have heard the phrase THE FAT BASTARD 400 times.  This was before the Austin Powers movie involving the other FAT BASTARD but whenever I hear it, the firework is still the first thing I still about.

The time came, and they were far enough away from me that I wasn't worried it might kill me, but I figured it would cause such a ruckus, the beach police would come and escort us all off the beach, forever banned.

But first, they'd have to wait like 3 hours while we disassembled everything before they could escort our sorry butts off the beach.

THE FAT BASTARD was lit.  It sparked.  It spun.  It shot things out.  And then it somehow spun under a truck.  The truck driven by Ted.  Remember Ted?  He had the truck with the gas leak.  And THE FAT BASTARD was currently spinning under it.

The wreck and carnage I envisioned from the sparks from THE FAT BASTARD setting the gas leak on fire- it's indescribable.  I was really sure this was the end.  I can still picture what I imagined it would look like. 

When they came to get our bodies, I wondered, would they drive all the way out on the beach, or would they take a boat across the channel from the other side since it was quicker?

I think after a few more sparks, THE FAT BASTARD actually died out.  All I remember is that the truck didn't explode, no one was maimed and we didn't get thrown off the beach for recreating Hiroshima.

By now, it must have been around 10pm.  I was seriously over this whole weekend on the beach thing.  I was clammy, sandy, irritated, not drunk and fairly sure this would not be a regular thing for me.  I was thinking about how clammy I was going to be while I was sleeping.  And how I hate damp sheets.

Around this time, there might have been a small bonfire or a grill or something that gave heat and light because I remember sitting around something, shooting the breeze with a bunch of drunk people.   Pete told me a ridiculous story about how out at this beach, these sand spiders come out at night and they are really creepy.  No, those are crabs, I said.  I'm a local, I know these things.  He's from out of state, so he wouldn't know.

And then I saw them.  Actual spiders like daddy longlegs, running around on the beach.  K-ster said there is no way they were spiders.  But I know they were not crabs.  I saw them with my completely sober eyes.  I'd never seen them on a beach before, day or night, and I've never seen them again.

And then it started raining.

And then I  remembered that it was supposed to storm.  A lot.

And it really started raining, so I went into the camper.  I think those who didn't have campers might have started leaving at this point.  I was inside and dry, but still beach clammy and probably sandy.

And then I noticed the tide coming.  And coming.  And coming.  And way past the point when high tide was supposed to have come and gone, it was still coming.  And we had parked pretty far from the shoreline but I was seeing water outside the window, much closer than I was ok with.

Now I was certain I was going to be carried out to sea, in a camper that reeked of onions, with no bathroom, by myself.  Because k-ster and some of the guys were out digging a trench between the water and us.

Because surely, the raging ocean would not come past a manmade moat, right?

I kept thinking about leaving but I knew we had so much gear outside the truck, the storm would be over before we got it all inside.

And then it started thundering and lightning.  I was in a camper, on a truck with rubber tires, so I wasn't so worried.  Even though we were on a beach, with no trees or anything else for lightning to hit.  My brain said rubber tires will save us.

And then the door opened, and k-ster said "we're leaving".

I was so relieved I might have whooped with joy, but I couldn't imagine getting everything put away and then driving the 45 minutes off the beach before dawn.  And what had made him decide we should go?

Lightning bolts in two places at the same time.  Apparently, that's the final straw.  One bolt at a time?  No problem.  2?  All set thanks.

So, in driving rain, we set out to haul everything in.  Everything that had been staked down and tied to the truck.  Our outdoor bathroom.  Grills, chairs, everything beach related.  And somehow, Frank was still there,though his driver Pete had left in his truck, the passenger door buckled and broken.

With Herculean strength and speed I wouldn't have thought possible, we managed to pick it all up, throw it into the camper within minutes and the 3 of us hopped in the front seat.  I didn't know Frank from Adam, and we were so soaked and crammed in, but I didn't care.

That drive off the beach was agonizing.  I was excited to be leaving but it was so slow and laborious because of the camper and the stuff we had haphazardly tossed into the camper was shifting and banging around.  And the storm was still raging. 

And to get back to k-ster's house, which was about another 40 minutes away, we needed to put air back in the tires.  So, since it was now like 2am and he didn't want to chance the gas station air not being available, we pulled out the scuba tanks and filled his tires.  Except the scuba tanks were in the defunct bathroom which had a door.  Which was blocked by the myriad beach things we had thrown in to get out of Dodge. 

We got the tanks out and filled up.  I thought about the many stories k-ster had told me about going to the beach for the weekend as a kid and how much fun it was.  Because he was a kid.  He didn't have to be the adult, making decisions about what to bring, when to leave, what to do.

I never slept that night at the beach, or any other night and I'm not disappointed.   The camper is long gone, the truck has been replaced with a newer model, the beach is fairly inaccessible for weeks of summer due to the birds and the kids that k-ster spent all of those weekends with are now adults who are fed up with the birds, don't have campers and have mostly stopped going.   

I'm OK with never sleeping on a beach.  I have a legend in my memory that will never be forgotten and whenever someone mentions THE FAT BASTARD, I smell potato salad with onions.

1 comment:

  1. What a crazy fun story! Those are the best memories!


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