Today felt like a Sunday. It's been a long time since I've been able to say that. For the past two months -- yes, it's officially two months today! -- days have drifted. There never feels like a set time for relaxing. Every day you feel guilty about either working too much or too little, and I think people would be surprised by just how often we are holed up in a coffee shop or next to our hot spot rather than out exploring.
We try to strike a balance. So when we woke up today, groggy-eyed and bundled under the sheets, and I reached for the phone to check the time -- 8:56 a.m. -- it finally felt like Sunday.
We'd been up late the night before, Carson transcribing interviews for a big upcoming article and me up late working on spreadsheets and crunching numbers for the business I'm starting this spring. We'd also spent the previous 6 hours driving from Fort Yargo SP east of Atlanta down toward Mobile. Five hours in it occurred to us to call the park we were headed for -- Meaher SP -- to see if there was availability. Of course, us being us, there wasn't. They could get us in Sunday, but were full-up for the evening, busy with weekend campers. We pulled over at the nearest rest stop and started Googling nearby parks. In our earlier days of travel, this would have set us in a panic. But by now we knew the drill.
Carson found a park 15 miles away; I found one just outside of Mobile, but a good 45-minute drive. After busy signals and several calls, both said they could accommodate us, so long as we arrived before sundown. Itching to get some work in, we opted for the closer park. We turned down a state highway that passed by a towering state pen outside of Atmore, AL. Our first prison and our first cotton fields of the entire trip in one shot. Unfortunately, Little River State Park was not the "little known gem" its website so proudly proclaimed. Hookups were in the middle of an abandoned field, and "cabins" were actually a few single-wides near a lake. Stubbornly we stayed, ignoring all the warning signs. But after pulling Elsie through the rough, hole-pocked field, we found no working water at any of the scattered faucets.
We turned around, Carson got his refund, we pushed on.
Blakeley SP was only 50 minutes away, but we were fighting the quickly setting sun. Pushing 65, the limit for Elsie before we start to experience "sway", we made it just before the sun set. The proprietor was waiting for us, his porch light still on. I thought of Tom Bodett and the old Motel 6 commercials -- "we'll leave the light on for ya." He gave us site 8, "the best in the park" he muttered several times. We followed the gravel road to a huge pull-through site in the middle of a wooded area. It was a little rough, a little remote, but it would do.
Fast forward through hours of work, a little reading, and a good night's rest, and we met our first Sunday. I was the first to rise, heading outside for -- well, I won't sugar coat it for you: I had to pee. I was shocked to find bright, warm sun blinding me. I came back to report the good news. Carson opened the shade and basked in the light. "I could actually get a face tan," he joked. El Nino hasn't been kind to us. The sun, on a Sunday no less, felt kind of like a good practical joke.
I knew what to do: bake blueberry scones. Carson used to make me scones on Sunday night before I'd make the early morning drive to Durham, NC from Wilmington, NC -- a 3-hour trek both ways that I made weekly when we lived there. The habit stuck around long after my 4:00 a.m. Monday wake up calls. We'd occasionally make scones on a lazy Sunday, a little gesture that always said "I love you" without actually having to say it. We didn't have the right stuff for the real thing, but I keep baking mix on hand because I'm a 65-year-old deep down inside. I found a recipe online for baking mix scones, preheated the toaster oven and heated the kettle for our instant Maxwell House coffee.
It's not perfect, but this is as close to perfection as we get on the road. For a long time I've been thinking about how hard it is to take the compliment from friends, family and strangers that "we're so proud / inspired / happy that you're taking the this trip now, at your age." I always retort that they should ask us just how fun it is 6 months from now, when we're inevitably more road weary. I want to tell them that it's not easy. That it's exciting and rewarding, but also incredibly difficult and tiring and lonely sometimes.
But then we get a Sunday. And I think that we should just learn to take a compliment.