Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Jessica's Last Camping Trip

Is camping really that bad? The wife seems to think so. I'm no Paul Bunyan but even Mr. N enjoys the occasional tent and sleeping bag excursion. Not so much with Mrs. N. The closest that she will get to camping is renting a log cabin with a shower, high-speed internet and a plasma TV of no less than 42 inches.

We tried camping once before and even I have to admit that it was a debacle. I ordered a tent off eBay and reserved a camping section complete with grill and parking spot. We were camping in the Shenandoah Mountains in May 2006 and things started off pretty well. We pitched the tent, started a fire and had a decent meal. We talked and looked up at the stars so things were looking good.

For Jessica, the problem isn't this part, it's the sleeping situation. I tried to make things as comfortable as possible by getting a queen sized air-mattress and a new sleeping bag. Little did I know that it was unseasonably cold that day and the lows hit 37 degrees. Add that to the fact that Mrs. N had bad allergies that night and you can probably guess who cleared camp by himself in the morning.

I was pleasantly surprised when Jessica suggested that we go camping before we left Kauai. I had always talked about how much fun it would be but she never seemed too thrilled. I think she kept hoping in the back of her mind that I would find someone to go with but she probably realized that you have to actually have friends in order to pull that off. She is a great wife so she eventually caved and proposed camping for a night at Polihale State Park.

To get there, you take a 5-mile dirt road filled with potholes, so we rented a Jeep for the night. Lets just say this this was the crappiest rental vehicle I have ever rented. When I wanted to put something in the glove compartment, I pulled the handle and the entire compartment came crashing to the ground. I think the engine was held together with duct tape. More on the Jeep later.

We got to the camp and started to set up. For those of you who know me, you know that I am not the handiest of men. In fact, I am the least. My dad built a deck by himself back when we lived near the ocean in Ireland and I can't put furniture together from Ikea without the help of my wife. Here are some shots of my futile attempts to set up a 2-person tent.

It appears that Mr. N knows what he is doing

The real Mr N. appears.

Once Jessica helped out, we were set for some nice R&R. For those of you that know me, you know that there is no such thing as "good enough". Our guidebook mentioned that you can take a 4x4 out onto the beach and drive around on the dunes. I wanted in.

I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed so when we saw another Jeep get stuck in the sand for a good 15 minutes, I wanted to do it the very second they finally got free. I followed the books instructions by taking most of the air out of the tired and keeping an air compressor in the car. Jessica looked at me apprehensively and said, "Are you sure you want to do this? I think this is a really bad idea", to which I replied, "I've never been so sure about anything in my entire life".

This is where the crappy Jeep comes back into play. We got a Rubicon so I thought we could tear around the sand like we were in a video game. The problem was that I could never get the four-wheel drive into 4L. You are supposed to be in low gear on the sand to prevent the tires from spinning. I literally pulled the gearbox with all of my might but we never got it into 4L. A smart man would have called it a day, but I am not a smart man.

View from the cockpit

We pulled onto the sand and things were a little shaky at first. After I a while I got the hang of it and we were rolling around in the sand. Even Jessica seemed to be having a good time. That good time came to an abrupt end when I tried to turn the Jeep around. The beach was on a slight decline as you went towards the water so we were driving into progressively deeper sand. Within seconds we were stuck. I jumped out and stuck the floor-mats under the tires as prescribed by the book. Nothing happened. Things were not looking good.

A woman and her two daughters came to offer while a few others looked on at the spectacle. A quick glance at Mrs. N told me that she wasn't happy. My manhood was put into question when I got ready to push the Jeep from the back and see a mother to my left and a 10 year old girl to my right. I felt like an idiot. Every time we pushed, Jessica went about 5 feet. We had over a half-mile to go.

Since the wheels were half sunk into the sand, we'd get out onto our knees and dig each wheel out with our hands after every attempt. This went on for an hour and a half. At one point the Jeep would no longer start. She tried 5 times in a row and it wasn't even turning over.

What had started as a fun mini-adventure turned into the worst part of our 7 month stay on the island. I took a well deserved verbal beating from the wife and felt completely helpless as we had no cell reception and tow-trucks charge at least $500 to get you out of the sand. My friends, I was in a dark place.

After about 1o minutes, we decided to give it one last shot. We were alone now as we thanked the mother and her daughters for trying to help us. I got behind the Jeep and Jessica tried to start the engine. It started. I pushed. The Jeep moved. It kept moving. And moving. I felt like like the dad that just took the training wheels off of his daughter's bicycle as I saw her rolling down the sand. I didn't even care about the fact that I had to walk a half mile carrying 2 floor mats. I pointed a finger to the sky and thanked the Good Lord for helping us out.

When I got back I half expected Jessica to demand that we go home immediately. But she was in much better spirits and we decided to make the best of it. I jumped into the ocean while she jumped into the shower. When I came back we pulled out the rest of our gear and started dinner. We had ahi tuna steaks along with artichoke salad and beer. We looked up at the stars and saw thousands of tiny lights. I was in heaven.

We saw a gorgeous sunset and then Jessica made quite possibly the best desert in the history of the world. She cut a slit down the middle of a banana and shoved half of a Symphony chocolate bar with almonds in. Then she wrapped it in tin-foil and threw it onto the fire for 5 minutes or so. When I put the first forkful into my mouth, I thought I had died and gone to dessert heaven. I swear, you could serve this at a four star restaurant.

Right before we went to bed, Jessica told me that this was her last camping trip. I could hardly blame her and I thanked her and told her I loved her. I then had the worst night of sleep imaginable. Not only did Jessica take the one-person foam mattress, but she took the memory foam pillow, the white bed sheet, and the purple flannel blanket that was to serve as my mat. I was left with a 4 inch wide pillow and a tiny sleeping bag. Basically, I slept on the sand.

It was awful but in the end it was worth it. It was kind of like life, you have your bumps along the way but you always push on and make the best of it. We got stuck in the sand, got out and made a night out of it. The next morning we were greeted by a school of hundreds of dolphins jumping and playing in the ocean while we packed up camp. Cheers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Really nice website. I have been to Kauai/Maui about a dozen times over the last few years. I have never spent as many months as you have on the island, the most at any one time is a few weeks. Just one question, how did you get so many months off from work at one time? Anyways, I really enjoyed your story, having been to many of the places you mention.