I am on vacation. Well, by the time you read this I’m not, but while I am writing it I am. One of the nice things about vacation at the lake is that we’re disconnected. There is no cell service, no satellite, no cable TV, no wifi. There is, however, electricity, so I can’t claim to be off the grid completely. But I’m definitely off the internet.
Vacation officially started on Friday at 5:00, but not really because that is the night I tried to do every single thing I needed to do to get ready. It was a busy week at work, with lots of long hours, and the only thing I had managed to do to get ready for vacation was swing into a local store and buy a couple of pairs of jeans that I didn’t love but bought anyway because I was about to spend nine days in the woods, in the Fall, and a girl has got to have jeans.
It’s only day three and I haven’t worn those jeans yet. There’s a hierarchy to clothes on vacation at the lake. There is a laundromat, about fifteen miles away, if we get desperate, but so far in ten years we’ve never gotten that desperate. We try to avoid that city, in general, unless we need to go to the grocery store in town. There is a gas station/bait store/sporting goods/gift shop closer to us that usually has what we need, but occasionally, like when a bear eats our chicken taco meat from the crockpot so we have to use the hamburger for tacos, instead, which means our meal plan is messed up, we need to go to the actual grocery store. My point being, there have to be some pretty compelling reasons for us to go to town, so there’s a process to the way we wear our clothes.
At home, I take a shower every morning and usually a bath every night. I have a spearmint-eucalyptus bath salt addiction and I love, love, love soaking in it before bed. I need a shower in the morning though to wake up, and to fix my unruly hair and generally to look and feel like a normal human being.
At the lake, where we hand pump every gallon, baths twice a day are highly unlikely, unless you count jumping in the lake in the summer as also a bath.
It’s easiest to take baths at night, when we’re done doing things that make us sweaty, so typically the clean clothes come out at night. Then we barely wore them before bed so we put them on again in the morning and wear them all day. Then it’s bath time again but the clothes do not go into the dirty laundry quite yet. They go into the fishing and ATVing pile. ATVing always leaves me smelling like exhaust, and really dusty if there’s not been any rain in a while, so the clothes that are already worn are the ATVing clothes- and after that they go into the dirty clothes bag. With fishing, you never know when you get minnow guts on your pants or a scared sunfish pees on you, or a slimy anchor rope gets you, so it’s best not wear your cleanest clothes for fishing either.
The vacation clothing hierarchy does not apply to underwear or socks, they are wear once garments, with the exception of warm wool socks which are worn over the primary socks. These socks can be worn repeatedly as long as you always wear them over another pair. And if you go on long trips, or you ever went away to camp, you know you always save one clean outfit for going home.
So anyway, I didn’t have quite enough jeans for the week so I managed to squeak in some jean shopping but nothing else all week, which meant on Friday I still needed to do all the shopping, all the laundry and all the packing.
I set out kind of late, needing to wrap up all the loose ends at work in preparation to be gone for a week before I could call it a day. I first went to Coborn’s, a local grocery store, because they have the best dollar buns, and I also like the deli meat best of the local stores. But most importantly, their cookies do not contain trans fat, something that’s important to us, so I get those there as well. I do the bulk of my grocery shopping at Cub foods, but since Cub is open 24 hours, I could hit all the other stores first and save the final, big shopping for last. When I arrived at Coborn’s the lights were off in the deli, the hot food was gone and the nice man behind the counter was wrapping the deli meat.
“Are you closed?” I asked, even though it was obvious they were. Not being able to get the deli meat I wanted would mean I would have to get it somewhere else and when we’re on vacation I think we deserve the best and Coborn’s is the best.
“No, what can I get for you?” the nice man asked. Really, he was more of a boy, but a boy who had been trained very well how to treat a customer. (Way to go Coborn’s)
“Well, I wanted some roast beef and some chicken, if you’re not closed,” I said, grimacing a little so he knew I realized I was being a pain in the you-know-what, but giving him an out.
“We’re not closed,” he said with a smile, and set about preparing my order.
Crisis averted and deli meat obtained, I snatched some cookies and some dollar buns and headed for the check out.
The next stop was the liquor store, it was busy but I was in and out of there in no time. I was almost eight-thirty and I was hungry, so I made a beeline for the Arby’s drive thru. I ate my food on the way to Target. I also needed to go to Walmart, because Walmart carries the fleece long underwear that are the best ones ever, but Walmart has crap for book selection and I needed books for my vacation.
I pulled into the Target parking lot, finishing my roast beef and swiss and lighting a cigarette. I picked up my phone to check Twitter while I smoked, and noticed out of the corner of my eye a car pulling up next to me. It was J, so I put down my phone and hopped out of the car and said hello to him and chit chatted a minute, he had been sucking up leaves in the yard when I left so we had hardly talked. To tell you the truth, we hadn’t spent a ton of time together all week, both of us working long days and trying to get a chore done here and there where we could. We were surviving on the knowledge ethat we had nine whole days together coming up.
“What time did you want to leave tomorrow?” he asked.
“I don’t care,” I said, “I have a lot left to do but I can sleep in the truck. Maybe nine or ten?”
Famous last words, those.
J left and I headed into Target. I went straight to the books and picked out three in a matter of minutes, then headed over to the birthday card section ‘cause it was dad’s birthday Sunday and I needed to get a card in the mail before I left.
I left Target, mission accomplished, and headed for Walmart. It was ten o’clock by then, so I parked by the grocery doors because the others close at ten. It took me a while at Walmart, I had a list of things to get like bird food and napkins and long underwear and new socks. By the time I pulled into the Cub parking lot, for the last stop of my night before going home to pack every damn thing, it was just after eleven.
The parking lot was blissfully empty, an advantage to grocery shopping in the middle of the night, so I grabbed my Cub boxes and reusable bags (that I remembered, for once) and headed for the doors. I was exhausted, but this was my last stop and it was a light at the end of the tunnel to propel me on.
Then I got to the doors.
“We’re sorry, due to unforeseen circumstances we are closed and will reopen at six am,” the sign on the door said.
I am sure I stood there, mouth agape, for a full minute while visions of my whole vacation being ruined danced through my head. I could go back to Walmart, but I refuse to buy some things- like meat- there and so I’d still be left without the main staple for the week. I could just grocery shop the next day, right? Get up early? Get back home and get everything packed? You and I both know that was not going to happen.
I decided to drive to the next town to the next nearest Cub. I threw my boxes and bags back in the car and pulled out of the parking lot with purpose. I arrived at the other Cub at eleven thirty, but since Cub was open all night, I didn’t worry about the time.
The sign on the door told me they were closing in half an hour. (WTH!!!) I devised a strategy. I could stop somewhere else for bottled water or chips but there were certain things I needed from Cub. I hit the meat department first, and then the produce, and then the dairy aisle. I ventured over to the dry good for some taco shells. The only remaining cashier for the night kept, every ten minutes, saying,
“Attention customers, our store is closing in (insert not enough time for shopping) minutes, please proceed to the check out.”
I tell you what though, with the exception of the water, I got everything we needed for nine days at the lake in that one small half hour of time. The manager was waiting by the door to lock it behind me as I made my way out.
I drove home and unpacked. And repacked. And packed some more. The clothes, the linens, the towels, the dry goods, the paper products, winter clothes for the cold ATV rides and rain gear just in case and all the things we need for a week at the lake.
When I finished it was three-thirty am. I set my alarm for eight thirty and collapsed into bed.
When the alarm went off at eight thirty I shut it off. I woke up again at nine because J was being all snuggly and cute. We forced ourselves out of bed at nine thirty. We drank coffee and assessed the situation. Despite my heroic efforts the night before, it was twelve thirty before the truck was completely packed, the cat stocked up on food, the plants all watered and the note left for the person taking care of the all the things that need water.
Had we left at nine, we would have just been pulling into the lake, but I was not going to feel badly. I felt pretty lucky were heading out at 12:30 given the things that I had to get done before we left.
We made it a half a block and then J noticed the neighbors were having a garage sale and he spotted an air compressor he wanted to look at so, exactly half a block into our vacation, we stopped.
We hadn’t seen the neighbors for a while which meant we couldn’t just rush out of there so by the time we finished the obligatory small talk it was another half hour later and we were finally on our way. Well sort of, first we had to find a mailbox to mail my dad’s card because I had put a stop on the mail and didn’t know if they would pick up, and then J needed some special gas that he can only get at one place in town and so we made a couple of more stops before finally leaving our town.
“Finally,” J said, “we’re leaving, even though I wanted to be at the lake by now.”
“We’re on vacation,” I began, “and we are under no time limit. I don’t see any reason why we should not enjoy the day and not put any undue pressure on ourselves.”
J thought about that for a while. He is not the type to not put pressure on himself. Before we even got to the lake he had jobs planned for himself. Today, for instance, he has already taken down a tree that needed to go because it was all up in the grill of some pine trees, cut it up and chopped it, and moved it to a pile beside the stacked wood. He has also bleach scrubbed the shingles on the shed, and is now repainting the threshold on the shed because he is installing some new flashing and he sanded it all down a couple of days ago.
“You’re right,” he said, flipping on his left turn signal, “and speaking of enjoying the day, what say we take the scenic route?”
He made a left onto a side road. It’s a road we discovered one year when there was a construction detour, and it’s a curvy, winding drive that makes you feel like you’re up north even though you aren’t yet, and it was beautiful this time of year with all the trees in full Fall foliage. I think we were both kind of sad when it made it’s way back to the main road.
We stopped and ate at a buffet in the last large town, and made a stop for minnows at the last bait shop. By the time we arrived at the lake, we had just enough time to unpack the truck before it got dark.
But vacation had started the second we turned off the main road.