I have been blessed with knowing some very good friends for many years. We haven’t lived in the same town, or even state for decades. We haven’t spoken for years at a time. But we know about the major events in each other’s life. I hope you have some friends like this. When you see them again it’s like no time has passed. The old jokes are still funny. The great stories come back. You try to catch up when in town together.
This story is about this kind of friend.
Back then. When we all met we were in our early twenties. They weren’t married yet but were dating. Eddie was originally a co-worker of the fellow I was dating. Kathy was his girlfriend. They got married. We got married, they were our best man and woman. They had a daughter and a couple of years later we had a son.
We would go camping in West Virginia in the Summerville area. The drive from Dayton where we all lived was about five hours. They had a boat they kept docked at the lake during the summer. We all just had tents and bedrolls. I don’t even think we had air mattresses. Meals were simple sandwiches or fast food from town. Once in a while, we cooked dinners at camp. Hamburger Helper type of meals. The main event was the lake. The ability to afford to come was staying at the campground with tents. We were young and broke.
Lake Summerville is a Corp of Engineers (COE) project. According to wvtourism.com Summerville Lake is the largest lake in West Virginia with more than sixty miles of shoreline and 28,000 acres of water.
There are better roads now and the drive can be made in about four hours.
Now. We are all well into our fifties or more. The kids are grown. Their grandkids have grown up coming to the lake. They now own some acreage where they plan to build their retirement home. The property has a couple of buildings with electric and water. They have a couple of RVs parked on their mountain. They have invited me several times. It’s a long drive from Florida where I now live. It’s the kind of invitation that will stay open forever.
I was recently visiting my hometown and had sent Kathy a text. I said I heard she was going to WV for the weekend. She sent me one back that said they were and I should come. So, here I am.
We no longer are sleeping on the ground. There are no tents. The RVs are parked in a circle around the fire pit. They have a little more than forty acres here now. The road to the top of the mountain requires a four-wheeling vehicle so there are a couple of them here.
She took me on a tour of the property. She showed me a couple of sites where the house could be built. Her brother plans to have one here also. Their father wants a smaller home closer to the road.
There is no perfect time. When something is important you find a way. We started camping in tents for very little money. As time marches on you upgrade when you can. You find ways to accomplish the goals that are important. I am not saying to throw caution to the wind. Take reasonable actions in advance. Have some basic equipment. Be able to make or buy simple food. Start camping within a reasonable distance to where you live. Take friends.
The older stories
The great stories that get repeated even after years are always the ones where something goes awry. Here are a few shortened stories.
The first time I came after I split with my husband was one of those life-changing trips. I had never driven five hours from home by myself, let alone with my young son. The what-if questions filled my mind.
Why don’t the what-if questions ever include; what if I have a great time and everything is wonderful?
What I remember about that first trip I drove by myself as I got so sunburned I couldn’t move. We had a fabulous time on the lake and I didn’t use enough sunscreen. That night I had to make the hike to the bathroom after my son when to sleep and my skin was so hot I decided I would cool off in the shower. The cold water helped while it ran. I was in a t-shirt and shorts. I hadn’t planned on taking a shower, it was a potty trip. I am now standing in the shower at midnight soaking wet with no towel. I had to use my t-shirt to dry off to go back to the tent.
Back then we stopped at fast food places. Twice, a year apart while camping, we went to a local pizza joint. Twice, I had the quart-sized Mountain Dew cup dumped on me from a clumsy teenaged server. Twice! No, the Mountain Dew wasn’t for me. After the second time, I wouldn’t go back to that restaurant.
Once, Kathy, who is highly allergic to bee stings had gotten her prescription injector wet and the needle had rusted. We drove to a couple of different pharmacies looking to get it replaced. We finally found one but they made us pay in cash and wouldn’t take her insurance. It was a hit to the budget but well worth the money.
The story will never go away. It’s the lice story. Yes, kids get lice. Their daughter had come home from school with them a few weeks before a planned camping trip. Products were used, all was good, or so they thought.
We had been out on this crystal-clear lake for hours. Boating and stopping to jump in and swim. Back then the water was clear 20-30 feet down until you couldn’t see from the sunlight. We would wash our hair before getting out to head back to shore. Once on the boat, I noticed their daughter scratching. Yep, they were back. This was day two or three of our trip and it’s late in the afternoon. To say a few folks were grumpy at dinner was an understatement. What can you do? You’re camping and just found out your kid has lice. Two big dogs, three of us girls had long hair. Sleeping bags, pillows, everything. The next morning, we went and found the shampoo and dad was on shampoo duty and we went to the laundromat. Not really the way we had planned on spending the day.
The what-ifs you think of are never the ones that happen.
This trip. Kathy and Eddie were not planning to leave Dayton until 4 pm. I didn’t want to get here in the dark since I don’t know where I am going. I left at about 2 pm. I am towing my eight-week-old camper with my fourteen-year-old truck. Halfway to their property my engine light starts flashing and my car is misfiring. I was able to get to a truck stop type gas station. The mechanic put the code reader on my truck and found the problem was a bad coil. It was at 4:30 pm. He said the local shops closed at five but if I could get the part he would put it on for me even though they really only work on semi-trucks. I dropped my trailer at the truck stop to help lighten the load on the engine and headed eight miles to town for the coil. I let Kathy and Eddie know what was going on. They caught up to me and stopped to wait while they finished my truck. We had dinner at the truck stop.
It took the mechanic an hour and a half but he was able to change it. I count how incredibly lucky I am for several reasons. We continue our journey with me following my friends to the property in the dark.
The what-ifs you think of are never the ones that happen. I hope all of my readers have some great friends they can count on to make memories with.