Pilot to Bombardier

Michaele AlexanderThe Open Range

We have arrived! Yes, by the grace of all that is good we actually got not one, but two side by side campgrounds on a loop down at the end of the lake where we have stayed before. We were overjoyed as the kids had upon our previous encounter dubbed the shallow estuary across from us feeding into the lake “Black Skull Cove” and spent many adventures floating about on their yellow big box store purchase kayaks exploring to their heart’s content all the stories their mind’s could muster. A lot of them involved squirting The Dads. And paddling furiously away from The Dads. The Dads were both game, and a slightly better aim.

After a bit of tricky maneuvering by our good friends who were wedging themselves past an awkward tree trunk or two, having been kind enough to give us the spot that was more easily back-inable (okay, not a word but used with enough frequency to be highly appropriate for the occasion) for a 36’ moving apartment who’s back-up camera was being “temperamental” (aka out to lunch) we all began to nest for the week. This of course means the kids ran off to play on the huge boulders and the taller folk began to bring out the necessary paraphernalia.

Being that it was our “new” used coach I began to blunder about in the compartments below as Hubby did the mysterious and unmentionable deeds like connecting the sewer hook up hose and electrical circuit protector and watering the electrical circuit protector with the leak in the fresh water connection hose. Mind you I could learn to do such things. I could. I just don’t want to. That’s his side of the coach. Anyway, I am the packing maven. Fitting stuff into spaces and knowing where they are on demand is my bailiwick.

Since this camping trip was a short shake ‘em out first time run I thought “Why mark the bins yet?” We were sure to need modifications here and there as there were more compartments on this RV sporting non-compatible dimensions to our previous one. We would certainly need time to settle on the best way of doing things before getting out the label maker and permanent ink markers. A good solid sensible strategy.

Except that we were rather rushed with designing and making our daughter’s bed prototype (heaven forbid we should have to unfold and make her bed out of the couch every night) and last minute secure shelves for things like the toaster oven so it could rest above the stovetop where the microwave had hung until we gave it back to the dealer (who thought we were peculiar) that I did not take great stock of where everything was stored.

It all made sense at the time of course. This goes with this and that goes with that. This goes here, that goes there. And with loads of room to spare. But the roomier compartments were configured so differently in shape that many items had to be introduced to new traveling companions and alternate seating arrangements made. But off we went into the wild blue, er onto the greyish black tarmac towards our destination with only the slightest niggling feelings of having forgotten something.

And then we arrived and began to find out. Thank goodness our friends had most everything imaginable packed with excellent precision into their truck and 1970’s Silver Streak trailer. They had had time to perfect their needs and were armed with a, drum roll please… Packing List. My Aunt, one of the most organized people I know had conquered the world while raising four kids with lists. She would heartily approve.

But after a time, fumbling around, we managed to put out the carpet liner tarp, carpet, move the splinter filled picnic tables and cover them, erect the bug resistant canopy over one and the open air shade over the other, set out the lounge chairs that suddenly without warning may cause it’s inhabitant to be facing the sky with their toes in the air if not properly locked wearing their drink, hammock with stand that I got for me and never get to use because the kids love it, camping stove / food prep table complete with sticky-uppy armature that holds numerous hooks too small for grilling utensils that we don’t have anyway, ancient two burner propane stove that looks like the day it was born and works as well (almost), and stood back to watch as the coach’s awning moved into place with… yes, just because one can be too lazy to push the button on the side of the RV near the door, a remote control so small it is sure to go missing at some time in the future without being tagged with a geo positioning tracking device. And we didn’t need all seven days to do it.

Just so you know, we name everything. Our car, our house, our truck, our RV. They all have names. It is part of an imaginative life to anthropomorphize things and we do indeed live an imaginative life. Our car’s name happens to be “Pilot”. Not overly imaginative, but some days are better than others. So Pilot is tucked in nicely on the other side of our RV sporting the yet to be removed kayaks on top (Plantain and Red Plantain), my husband’s bicycle affixed to the rear (Sage) and our daughter’s kayak inside (Banana). We are nestled together in a forest of cedar and pine that scrapes the sky. It is lovely. We began to prepare lunch, enjoy and relax.

Then from one moment to the next our world changes. “BANG!” We were under attack by lord knows what and it had shattered the peace along with everyone’s nerves. What had hit our car? “BANG!” Aaaaagh! The canopy of the awning deflected the next blow and a slightly green, damp and enormous pine cone came rolling to our feet. “BANG!” Another one! A direct hit to the new (used) coach! The dogs scattered. What if one of them hit one of us or the poochies? I was bewildered. We have been bombed by pinecones before, but none so heavy and unripe.

I railed at the tree. “Stop that!!!” Like it would suddenly choose differently. It seemed so untree-ish. Trees don’t just go throwing around unfinished work like that. “BANG!” “Maybe we should tell the ranger!” I shouted. Our friend, who used to work for the forest service surveying trees at one time in his life, strolled casually up and informed me that it wouldn’t do any good as the squirrel was going to do what squirrels do. Oh. Right. Cheeky litter blighter was up to having a meal and we had parked right under his tree.

But from that point forward, in my mind all I could hear playing over and over like a litany was, “Pilot to Bombardier, Pilot to Bombardier, your hatch bay’s open…”