I swear everytime I try to go camping it fails miserably.
The last time I went—or, rather, attempted to go—it was the weekend of the Fourth of July and every campsite and their mothers were booked solid and we couldn’t find a place to sleep. We ended up driving home and camping out in the yard.
Then, yesterday, Asa, our friend Justin and I piled our gear and the dogs in the car and headed down the freeway for yet another impromptu trip.
Asa had found some campground online that sounded a) quaint b) somewhat remote and c) less treaded. Due to a series of miscalculations, some wrong turns and a pit stop at the Full Sail brewery to pick up a growler of IPA, what should have been a quick, hour-long car ride soon morphed into a three-hour adventure.
Moreover, the back-country road that was supposed to take us to our quaintly remote campsite ended up circling back and meeting up with i-84. Bummed that we’d be camping alongside the Interstate but wary of the setting sun, we sucked it up and put on our blinker for the exit, which led to a rest area and beyond that, a campground.
But it was closed. We slowed down by the barracaded off-ramp to see if we could slip through but three neon-clad workers waved us on. Undeterred, we pulled over and Justin ran over to find out how we could reach our site. He spoke to them briefly, and climbed back into the car laughing.
“Well, Asa, you sure know how to pick a good campsite!” he announced.
Turns out, no one was getting into that campsite—and no one was leaving, either. The three workers wouldn’t reveal any information, but assured Justin that we “do NOT want to go in there” and that we’d be able to find out why “on the news tomorrow.”
We got back on the road and as we drove past our would-be site, we could see the flashing lights of every cop car and SWAT team in the state of Oregon. Guns, riot gear—this was a full-on commotion. The entire rest area and campground was littered with officers and the people who hadn’t been as lucky as us—the ones who hadn’t gotten lost on a back road and got in early enough to pitch a tent—were hanging out in the back seats of their cars.
“Holy shit, it’s a serial killer!” I started in.
“It’s not a serial killer,” said Asa. Always so rational, that boyfriend of mine.
“It was probably like an exploding latrene or something,” Justin offered.
“But then why wouldn’t people be able to leave?”
He shrugged. “Maybe they’re being quarantined for diseases from the shit explosion?”
“Maybe it’s an outbreak of leprocy!” That came from me, obviously, because my fears are always so rational.
Three miles down the road, Asa tried to pull off at the next campsite. “No way!” I protested. “Three miles is within walking distance of the serial killer!” Luckily for us, it turned out to be a day hiking spot anyway and we were saved from the killer on the loose. We kept driving.
When we finally found a site that was cop-free, it was pretty much dark and the fact that it was right alongside the freeway didn’t really matter. Most importantly, it was a good 15 or 20 miles west of the serial killer, so I knew I would be able to rest soundly. We pitched the tent, made dinner, drank our IPA and headed to bed.
And then: AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!
Turns out, our gem of a campsite was even closer to the train tracks than it was to the freeway. Which meant that between the roaring bustle of semi-trucks barreling down the highway, the flicker of the televisions and laptops in nearby RVs and the incredibly, ground-shakingly loud freight train every 15 minutes throughout the course of the night, none of us got much sleep.
Ironically, Chelsea only woke up once. I took her out for her usual 4 a.m. stroll, during which time I noticed that we had left a mallet on the picnic table after using it to hammer in the tent stakes. What were we thinking?! There was a serial killer on the loose, after all, and we might as well hang up a sign next to our tent with a giant arrow and the words, “FRESH MEAT HERE.” Next to the hammer lay the car keys, which was an even bigger WHAT WERE WE THINKING?! Supplying our maker with an implement of destruction is one thing, but giving him keys to the getaway car is even worse.
I tossed and turned for the rest of the night.
In the morning, the sun rose to reveal one of the prettiest things I have ever seen: the Columbia River Gorge. We mosied across the train tracks to the shore and watched the windsurfers for a bit. Asa started chatting with a dude who was rigging a sail, and he turned out to be someone who had a wee bit of information to offer about the events at the serial killer’s lair.
It wasn’t a serial killer. It wasn’t a leper, either, and it certainly wasn’t an exploding toilet. It was a bank robber. Wanted in Idaho and Wyoming and who knows where else. Was living in an RV in the quaint, remote and lightly-treaded campsite—and by “quaint, remote and lightly-treaded,” I really mean “ugly, directly off of the freeway and jam-packed with RVs”—you know, the one we had been trying to find when we got lost on the wrong road.
The windsurfer guy said that the robber been found out and was holding a woman and some children hostage in his RV. He finally surrendered at 5 o’clock this morning—in between the 4:49 a.m freight and the 5:06—and rumor has it that no one was killed.
Turns out, according to the folks over at one of the local TV stations, our informant was almost entirely correct.
What can I say? Incessant honking of passing trains, the rumble of loaded trucks, the chatter of a sit-com, the ridiculous fear that a serial killer was going to bash in my head with a mallet, a bank robber in a 12-hour standoff with the cops—my camping trips may be disasterous but they sure are eventful.