As the eloquent tellings of my accounts on-the-road had been left prior: Me, Chassy, and The Great B.O., were seemingly floating through the perilous lush of the Northern California countryside, on the wild and bewildering two-lane coaster that is famously known as HW 1.
Now, at this point, as I feel the need to backpedal my tale in order to accommodate those who are just joining us, I will instead refer you to the previous post. In fact, as a general rule, most of your questions can likely be answered by simply going backwards in the blog, and referring to the earlier posts that might shed some light on the HOWS and WHYS that are undoubtably clouding your eager minds. Among other things, I am working on figuring out a better system for people to be able to browse through much of the past content, that I assure you, is well worth reading. Though it might come as a surprise to you, I am what I playfully imagine a blogger would refer to, as: Technologically Blogtarded; hence the lack of technical development on this site, as well as the common inconsistencies. Spelling and grammar, however, are entirely my indiscretion, as I am what I not-so-playfully imagine an editor would refer to, as: Mentally Retarded.
We joyously contemplated everything and nothing while drinking rhine from a power-aide bottle; oohing and aaahing in unison with every dip and turn. Entrusting our lives to the cosmos, we rode solemnly as such, like saints of the universe; veering around the endless highway curves that were beginning to point away from the shoreline, and toward the inland town of Leggett. The scenic, yet perilous highway 1 runs a decent stretch along the Northern Mendocino coastline referred to as the "Lost Coast," but by the time it hits Rockport, the terrain becomes so unruly, that the highway heads a good deal inland- finally, and tragically, making its end in the small town of Leggett, where it meets up with Highway 101, better known as "The Redwood Highway."
We traveled up 101 a short while, and by the time the sun appeared to be getting weary and orange, as it does before dusk fully sets in, we found ourselves near our speculated destination. All we had to do now, was decode Slim's directions. Luckily for us, this took much less time than it could have, and after only fouling up once, we found and turned into the discreet passageway that would lead us to the bridge we were instructed to park under. Now that we had actually found, and arrived at our off-handedly referred destination, we were immediately confronted with the next set of decisions and the potential pitfalls therein.
We stepped out of the car, and before gearing up, took a short hike toward the site in question, so to give it a good once-over before making any firm decision concerning our stay. A short quarter mile in, we realized why Slim insisted we go no further than the bridge. With each step, the path broke beneath our feet as the muddy soot of the forrest transitioned into a gritty sand mixture. We decided to go no further without our packs, as the side of the forrest had broken way, giving us a decent enough view down the river for us to make an assessment.
To our surprise, there was a small caravan of R.V.'s that was huddled up next to the river, nearest to the path. Three or four of them in total. How in the hell they had gotten there, was beyond me. I recalled Slim first telling us about this hidden spot, and my first concern- short of directions- was feeling out what sort of place this was. Having stumbled upon some desperate sort of okie operation in the back-woods already, I was not in the market for more surprises- especially surprises along the lines of gun-toting guerrilla growers- something Humboldt, and Mendocino Co. are infamous for. I made this pretty clear to Slim, perhaps even too directly, and with a casual smile acknowledging my naive concerns, he assured us this was a family friendly place. I could see he was spot on.
Small children ran about with mothers fluttering after; well tanned men wearing visors and a belly, drank beer with their shirts off, laughing heartily. Wives hung clothing on a line running between the R.V.'s, drunk on cocktails and sighing wearily under the early evening sun. I looked towards B.O. to get his take on the situation, but he seemed to be distracted.
Upon further inquiry, I was abruptly informed that B.O. badly needed to take a shit.
"Oh…" I said somewhat remorsefully, "…Well, whadda' you think of the site?"
B.O. was looking around anxiously, and after realizing I had asked him something nearly a moment later, he said, "I gotta' go before anything else. You got any paper, or anything on you by chance?"
I looked to Chassy with a sympathetic grin, and before I could even tell him 'no,' he had disappeared into the nearby foliage. While nature took its course a few feet away in the woods, I continued to assess things.
First and foremost, I had decided that this was definitely a safe place for us to spend the night. I had considered almost every scenario within reason, and even some that were not. I wasn't particularly thrilled with the vacationing caravan of yutz's who even we made look like out-of-towner's; but on the upside, they added some sense of security. Of course there was the very distant possibility that perhaps our presence would be a matter of concern to them, but under any reasonable code of 'boondocking' ethics- I'll explain in a moment- nobody could claim that they had any more right then we did to stay there. I confirmed to myself that I would be willing to argue this, if need be. The more likely, and perhaps even more devastating possibility I was considering, was the exact opposite problem, being that they might drunkenly try and make a big happy party out of our company, and insist upon us inching right up next to their massive campers, and toasting s'mores, and telling stories and so forth. I cringed at the thought of this. I saw a nice little plot a short grip up the river with our names on it, and I wanted absolutely no part in this domestic hootenanny, embittered as it may have been. As twisted as our stint with the okie scene had wound up being, I admired them in a strange, sad, sort of way. I suppose that suddenly seeing such fancy homes on wheels like this, was too much for me to not be resentful of, after spending so much time with people who had so very little.
I should take a quick moment to be good on my word, and address the aforementioned term.
'Boondocking,' is a term used most commonly among RVer's, for free, unregulated camping; generally in remote locations. It does not only apply to staying in an RV, it has just been popularized by RVer's. Boondocking is similar to the term: 'dispersed camping,' though the latter tends to imply a rural setting, whereas arguably, boondocking might not. There is much debate among these cliquey posse's of soft-core vagrants, as some consider sleeping in a Wal-Mart parking lot to be boondocking- because they have no running water or electric; and others insist that you must be in the middle of nowhere. Personally, I think it seems like they all just want merit badges for roughing it.
I'll usually use the term boondocking loosely, when sleeping somewhere without permission- and thats really all you need to know, right?
So, when boondocking, there is really only two categories of concern a reasonable person should have. Firstly, is the law- as in cops, forrest rangers, hell, even a 'no trespassing' sign- anything dictating that you can't do what you're doing; and secondly, would be crime- as in hoodlums, muggers, thieves, grifters- anyone trying to harm or take something from you. Both are potentially disruptive forces to a person boondocking, but for better or for worse, the law is a far more common disturbance. I'd personally rather be robbed, but thats because a robber can't take away 500 bucks unless I actually have it. Miraculously, Johnny law on the other hand, somehow manages to stick me for money I don't even have yet, and that just makes me less determined to make anything in the first place.
With these various concerns for ourselves calculated, it seemed that we should be able to sleep safely. The issue now, however, was the car. None of us were entirely settled about leaving what little we had under a bridge all night in the dark woods. This would be a consideration that would ultimately require B.O.'s jurisdiction. And wouldn't you know it, that at just that moment, came The Great B.O. from the woods. Bearing a ten-year-old's triumphant grin, and exhaling an embellished sigh of relief, he proclaimed, "Well, looks like I'm going commando guys."
"What'd you shit yourself?" I said.
"No," he laughed, "I couldn't find anything to wipe, and those undies were on their last thread, so, they just had to go."
Chassy and I both laughed, acting disgusted through our tight, peaking smiles. We all started back toward the Le Sabre. "So, it seems like a pretty legit little spot from the looks of it…" B.O. said. I was about to insert my concerns with leaving the car, but B.O. continued, "I'm just nervous about leaving the car up there under the bridge all night." We were apparently, on the same page.
After considering our options, we figured the best we could do, would be to pack two of our bags to the brim, and essentially, strip the car of our most valuable items and cram those into the second bag. All we really needed for the night was a tent, two blankets, enough food for dinner and breakfast, a pan, and of course, some wine. In the other bag, I could put the laptop, my camera, our CD's, and whatever else that was of immediate value and would actually fit in there. Packing and unpacking the trunk is enough of a hassle, so it stands to reason that re-assembling bags is an entirely new headache. It always starts out seeming so simple and easy, but every time you look at the bag, and say 'okay, is that it?' someone comes up with another thing to add.
After wrestling every last damn thing into the bag, and tearing the car to shreds in the process, we were finally about ready to go. People feel uneasy when their house is in shambles, and I can assure you, it really isn't any different when you live out of your car, and your car is in shambles. Seeing everything we owned all spread out in piles like that, was really making me dwell on the devastating loss it would be if the car got stripped. B.O. warned us to look away as he changed into new undies, and I was forced to concentrate on the underside of the bridge, that was absolutely plastered with endless layers of spray-painted obscenities, symbols, and gang-type references. Awful premonitions began to flood my head.
"Alright, I'm good," B.O. finally said.
We strategically stuck a note to the inside of the window that read, 'WILL BE RIGHT BACK,' and as we had done countless times since the beginning of our travels, said with relief, 'well, nothin more we can do…' and left it to the fate of the universe as we walked off. Once we got going, I felt 100 percent better. Out of sight, really is out of mind.
We all headed back down the path through the woods and toward the river. Chassy carried our cooking pan with a small bag of groceries in it, and me and B.O. shifted around to settle the weight of our massive backpacks proportionally on our shoulders as we walked. The sense of empowerment one feels when carrying such weight on their backs is thoroughly rewarding, and it brought me back to the earlier winter, when me and B.O. had struggled so triumphantly to hitch-hike our way through Florida carrying bags twice the size than we realistically needed. It seemed like lifetimes ago.
We made it as far as the break in the forrest where we had previously scouted our site, and decided to try and cut right down the edge of the steep slope, and head straight up the river from there, instead of following the path and potentially rousing the royal caravan's dip-shit soirée.
B.O. went first, showing little display of hesitance. Balancing the enormous weight he was strapped to carefully, B.O. turned to face toward us, and while angling his body perpendicular to the steep incline, he confidently worked his way down the moderate 20 foot drop in a series of quick slides that were halted by grabbing onto the protruding branches, and kicking his feet back into the terrain for footing. Using a similar trajectory, I followed with Chassy directly above me. I worked my way down slowly and methodically, so Chassy's short slides would be halted by her rear-end landing square onto my shoulders. Finally, I slid to the bottom feeling a rush of sprightliness, and receiving Chassy elegantly on her way down.
I watched through a cloud of dirt, as she brought herself up laughing playfully, and dusted her outfit off with amusement; her thoughtfully composed side pony-tail was in subtle disarray, and the few escaping strands of dirty-blonde hair were bound adorably by a matching head band. She had been wearing these tiny moccasins that had thin little soles on them, and covered little more then her toes. I looked down at the marine boots that Brother Mark had given me, and laughed to myself as I helped Chassy along.
B.O. chuckled at us, and we shoved and teased each other back and forth in high spirits, while making our way up the river bank to our little spot. The bed of the slow, clear, stream was laden with stones, as was the terrain along the bank that we walked. Just further up the way, I could see that the bank of gravel tapered into a sort of dry prairie with patches of high grass protruding through the rocky soil, and bushes lining the river bank. We stopped just short of this transition, so to put ourselves as far away as possible from our neighbors.
It seemed as if there was no way to avoid an uncomfortable sleeping surface, but I tried my best to find as flat of an area as possible. After removing the protruding stones, I set up our tent while B.O. gathered some firewood, and Chassy began sorting rocks for our small fire pit. Though I still felt like this was a safe place to camp, I couldn't get over the strange feeling that we were being watched. I figured if the RV'ers were going to make any sort of complaint, they would do it as I was setting up the tent. I intentionally took my time assembling the thing, and while doing so, I precariously glanced over my shoulder a few times to make sure we had been seen. A middle aged women turned her head down-river while rummaging through a cooler, and she seemed to pay no mind to the activities of our foreign new camp. I decided that would be good enough to put me at ease, and I cleared away the silly notion that I should have even worried in the first place. I was usually the one wasting my time stressing about such trivial issues, and more often than not, it was completely unnecessary.
B.O. came stumbling over with a small armful of dried out sticks, and placed them next to our future cooking pit. "Did you see? it looks like we've got some company there in the woods too." he said.
"Shit," I said wearily. "Where?"
B.O. turned to the edge of the forrest, nodding toward a small camper that was sitting in the outer edge of the woods. In front of it was a small red truck sitting among the patches of tall grass and shrubbery.
"Are you for sure there's people there too?" I asked.
"Well, I didn't see anyone, but I heard a dog, and it sounded like it was in the camper. Plus, those don't look like abandoned vehicles."
"No, they don't." I agreed. "It looks like a little operation, is what it looks like…"
B.O. nodded slowly, thinking.
I looked around considering our surroundings, and trying to imagine the situation from their perspective. "Well, they're obviously used to people coming around here, so I doubt they're looking to start any trouble." I said reasonably, "You think we'll be okay if we just mind our own business, and stay well away from their camp?"
"I think if we keep our distance, and be respectful, we shouldn't have anything to worry about." he said finally.
So we continued to mind our business and set up our small, simple, camp. I was tired of worrying all day, and I reminded myself that we were doing no harm, and that no differently than the car earlier, there was nothing more that would be accomplished from my stress. As a final, pathetic gesture, I hung my dirty socks from a stick outside the tent to symbolize a white flag. I laughed, and finally washed my mind clean of any more worries, accepting that there wasn't much more I could do.
We yanked a large rock out of the ground, and stomped the crevice as best we could to make a small indent for our fire. Chassy had been busily piling rocks all over the place since we'd gotten there- partially with intentions to line our fire pit, and have a place to sit; and partially for her amusement. B.O. began to layer bits of small twigs and tinder in the crevice, as I walled larger stones around it, fitting the circumference to hold our pan. In almost no time, we had a beautiful little cooking fire going, and we all took a moment to silently admire our own ingenuity. Without getting too ahead of ourselves, we proudly agreed we had come a long way from some of our first camp-fire meals.
With our sturdy little camp in place, we started drinking wine, and I took on the task of cooking dinner. Using the miscellaneous goods we brought for our two meals, I boiled a bag of mixed veggies, and after draining the stream water, cooked in most of a large can of beef stew. We opened a large can of apricots, laid out what was left of a bag of shortbread cookies, and voila! Dinner was served.
We all ate heartily, and took turns killing off what was left of our bag of rhine. It got cooler as the sun fell beyond the endless valleys of trees, and as we passed around some smoke, I sat contently among the stones, watching the embers in the pit breath gently with the wind; feeling the water of the river flowing by, patiently. Finally, I was feeling at ease with everything. Maybe nature was trying to tell me something, I wondered pleasantly.
Though the sun had disappeared, it was not yet dark, and in my peripheral vision, I had yet to notice the movement of figures there on the edge of the woods. I was only subconsciously aware of the sensation of movement, until finally, I heard a short whistle followed by a voice, and with a resoundingly sober snap of wit, I fixed my attention toward the figure that appeared to be lunging at me with great speed.
All of the sudden, the creature came to a halt about five feet away from me, and cocked its head curiously as its ears perked up. It was a german shepherd- as far as I could identify- and though I hadn't noticed till just then, the other figures that emerged from the woods with it, appeared to be a family of some sorts.
"Harmony," a man called out sharply, "c'mere!"
The dog gave up on figuring me out, and obediently ran back, as a wild haired child- no older than 7, and wearing nothing but underpants- echoed through riling laughter, "yeah, har-mo-neeee!"
The homely little bunch headed toward the river, cutting over as far as possible without reaching the bushes that lined it a stones throw away. Aside from the rambunctious little one in his undies, there was a tall, starkly figured women carrying a small, bundled-up baby, and wearing a simply patterned tan dress that looked to have been hand crafted. Her dark brown hair was wrapped atop her head, sprouting dreadlocks; and her sturdy, protruding hips walked rhythmically before her motherly shadow.
Next to her was a slender, shirtless man, with long, dark dreadlocks hanging behind him, and a thick, stoic, beard that looked like it had somehow been won. He walked surely in stride, and nearest to him, another man- who I pegged to be a few years younger, in his late 20's- bounced along merrily, watching his feet as he walked. He had a gnarly red beard, and a matching bush of curls on his head, that seemed weighed down with sweat. He wore tan cut-off shorts, and his flip-flops accounted for the only shoes in the whole group of them.
They continued right on past us, paying almost no attention as the long haired child gleefully ran into the river with the dog, and the adults took turns rinsing themselves off, holding the baby on land in shifts. Having been profoundly corrected in the nature of our assumptions, I decided that I would make sure our little camp wasn't going to be a nuisance to what was obviously, their home.
I approached the women who stood motionless, like a roman goddess of fertility. As she looked over at me, I meekly inquired, "umm… It's not going to be a problem that we stay here the night, is it?"
The women focused back on her splashing child, and plainly said, "leave everything the way it was when you arrived, and make sure that you don't put any waste into the river."
"of course not…" I was beginning to say, when the women added,
"That includes soaps, and detergents- so no washing anything in the river, like those idiots." she said looking toward our neighbors.
"Okay…" I said, and walked away wanly. And that was really all that happened.
Me, Chassy, and B.O. sat around quietly, and even a bit awkwardly, waiting for them to finish their evening dip in the river. They disappeared back into their little camp as quietly as they emerged, and with an excited new sense of relief, me and B.O. went and skipped stones across the river.
"Hot damn, what a trip!" I said, laughing as I whipped an odd shaped rock into the darkening water. It skimmed and bounced a few feet before plunking miserably; for the most part though, I can skip a boulder if I really feel up to it.
"So, you still think they've got a little garden they're tending back there?" I said.
B.O. sent a beauty sailing half-way across the water, "Well, either that, or they're just laying low until they can trim for the harvest." he said.
"nice one," I said watching the ripples with childlike fascination. I sorted through stones till I found the perfect one, and just as I sent it sailing with a whip of my underarm, I heard a thunderous boom that echoed deep through the valley, and made my chest feel as if I had swallowed my heart.
I looked around in utter shock, and as I started to hear men cheering with belligerent vigor, I realized what it was. These whack-job RV'ers were shooting mortars into the sky; it was the forth of July, and we hadn't even realized it!
By the time it had finally gotten dark, our small fire dwindled away modestly, and we decided to call it a night. Me and Chassy managed to cram ourselves into the single person pup-tent, and The Great B.O. sprawled out next to our tent, underneath the luminous blanket of stars. I crammed some dirty clothes into a sweatshirt to rest my head on, and then handed the empty bag of wine out to B.O., who blew it up most of the way, to fashion his own make-shift pillow (a most wonderful trick that the okies taught us in Mendo). Once our heads hit the pillow- or wine bags, or whatever- we were out for the count. It had been a long day for all of us.
Be sure to keep up, I've got more new content coming soon! I've been on a documentary job, and I can't lie, its significantly slowing me down on the blog here, as well as in the studio- but enough about me, right?
I'll pick up where I left off here- does B.O. make it through the night? do RV'ers blow us up with mortars in a fit of patriotic rage? does our car get stolen? where did Chassy get her cute shoes, and will they have them in your size? THE ANSWER TO ALL THESE QUESTIONS AND MORE!
New CHARACTER PROFILES from Austin TX, AND
"How To Keep Yourself Clean Without a Shower!"
Until we meet again...
Joseph R. Reeves