Rolling, rolling, rolling…
It’s never a fun drive at the best of times, but having Charlotte in the car added a whole new level of apprehension. Luckily we didn’t botch the transition from crib to car seat, so she passed back out almost immediately. I’m always really twitchy when we first start the drive to Pennsic. There’s a lot of stuff on the roof, and until I get used to the creaking and wind noises I’m perpetually in fear that everything is going to go flying off the roof and all over the highway behind me. But this time I did a really good job of tying down the load and tucking in the strap ends, and it didn’t really make a noise. That was very reassuring. So we drove through the night to the sounds of road noise, a sleeping baby, and a soundtrack out of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Remember, the Jeep is a 1986 model – it has a tape deck. Normally I’d be content to listen to the radio, but have you ever tried to find a decent radio station across central Pennsylvania? That is more than my daily allotment of talk Jesus. I’d prefer music, but there isn’t much to be had – it’s really a vast radio wasteland, and whenever you do find a decent station the hills cut it off fairly quickly. So I dug out an assortment of old tapes: Billy Joel, Eric Clapton, Jim Croce, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Simon and Garfunkel, etc. Old, familiar, favorite music. We hit the Pennsylvania border just about sunrise – which is when I’d been hoping to roll into the site. It happens that way almost every year. Maybe I’ll be more organized next year. Kind of like "next year in Jerusalem."
Our first stop of the trip is usually on the side of I-84, often around Southbury in Connecticut because I’m *convinced* that the load is about to come off of the roof. But since it all strapped down so beautifully, our first stop was actually our scheduled gas stop on I-80. I’ve been stopping at exit 256 for more years than I care to admit to. Initially there was a twenty-four hour Texaco there. It was kind of skeezy and icky, and the bathroom doubled as the mop closet, but it was open twenty four hours. Then the truck stop went in with the shiny new Pilot (and if you’ve stopped at that Pilot recently you’ll have a good feeling for how long ago it was "shiny" and "new") and I abandoned the Texaco in favor of a place closer to the ramp with cleaner bathrooms. There were a lot of cars pulled in when we got there, and people were particularly stupid that morning. Imagine, if you will, a building with a single line of gas pumps paralleling the side with the door. You can pull up to the pumps on either side of the line, and the only entry/exit from the pump area is on one end of the line. When we arrived, there was a Pepsi truck pulled up to the front of the building (between the doors and the pumps) making a delivery. Truck = 18 wheeler. There was a car from Minnesota at the pump closest to the lot entrance, and sitting maybe six feet or so off the pumps: far enough that I was not going to be able to fit between the car and the Pepsi truck to access the pumps beyond her. The far side was a similar situation – cars parallel parked along the edge of the lot, and cars at the pumps. Without good rear-view mirror sight, I wasn’t going to try to squeeze through. No big deal – we just needed to wait for Minnesota to finish pumping her gas, and then pull forward.
There is a special place for people who leave the car sitting at the pump while they use the restroom, shop, buy lunch, whatever. So we sat. And sat. And sat some more. People – pay for your gas, move the car, go back in. This is not rocket science.
Eventually she wandered back to her car and I was able to pull forward. Bob gassed the car while I took Charlotte in to change her. Here’s another irritation – restroom stalls really ought to have a hook to hang things on. I did not want to set my purse on that floor, and I had a diaper bag. I managed to bodge things over the door and such, and went out to meet Bob afterhemovedthecarthankyouverymuch. Because *I* am considerate at gas stations. That Pilot has a Subway attached, and I discovered to my delight that they serve breakfast! I really wanted breakfast at that point, so it was quite fortuitous. I plopped Charlotte down and gave her my straw to play with to keep her occupied while I ate my breakfast. She gnawed on that happily for long enough to let me eat in peace. At one point I looked at her and said "how much of that do you have in your mouth?" She grinned and extracted probably two inches of drinking straw.
She’s not dating until she’s thirty.
The other interesting thing was that a whole batch of either Mennonites or some variety of Pennsylvania Dutch came through. I don’t think they were Amish, because I have a hard time imagining a minivan full of Amish. The ladies all smiled at Charlotte, who was being her cutest for them. *She* got to stare, whereas I couldn’t because it would be rude. I’m such a geek – I was fascinated by the way their caps were pleated and wired and that the aprons were pinned rather than tied. I didn’t want to be impolite though, so I didn’t really see much. Breakfast having been consumed, it was back on the road for us.
Shortly after that stop we drove into the rain, and for most of the rest of the trip it was just a matter of how hard it was raining – buckets, drizzle, or something in between. We stopped another time or two for diaper changes, and each time Charlotte was a little unhappier about getting back in the car seat. Poor thing. I have to say that on the whole she took it very well. We drove out of the rain just about the time we were getting onto I-79, and we hit the gate about 11:30 or so.
So much for my sunrise arrival. On the other hand, we just would have been sitting around waiting for the rain to stop so that we could put the tent up. So this time I didn’t really lose anything.
They pulled us into the biggest muck pit by the gate, and we fished Charlotte out to check in. It was the first time the person on that shift had checked in an infant, and I think a lot of the ensuing chaos is attributable to that fact, because the other person at that station was helping as we checked in two adults, an infant, and a vehicle. As we were filling out the paperwork (Bob just for himself, I had mine, Charlotte’s, and the car’s,) I had one ear cocked over to listen to the station next to us. They had a map of the campsite with a lot of yellow highlighting on it, and were giving people advice as to whether or not they were going to be able to access their camps. It had been raining in that part of Pennsylvania just as much as it has been here at home, and with all the vehicles going in and out the roads had been churned to soup. One description I heard of the Serengeti from security was "six inches of muck with two inches of running water on top." When we rolled in all of the cross roads on the Serengeti were closed, as was the parking lot. They actually told us to leave our car in camp if we could. That’s a first. Then they explained the new "three strikes and you’re out of Pennsic" policy. I’ll be interested to hear if they actually did anything with that. I hope so. I know that with that many people in residence and making town runs that vehicles driving through camp are now an unpleasant fact of life. But I’m sick of the cars that are resident in camp/on the road because people can’t be bothered to move them to the lot.
At the point when all the paperwork was finished and Charlotte had her ankle tag was when things began to go wrong. *I* thought Bob was getting the medallions, because that’s what the staff member he was working with seemed to be doing while my staff member dealt with the infant registration. We got to checkout with the Cooper’s staff, paid up, and I said "where’s my medallion?" The short answer to that was "good question." Luckily we hadn’t gotten very far, so Bob backtracked through the booth because he thought he’d dropped it. It finally turned up still stuck to the paperwork. Humidity anyone?
As we walked from the troll booth back to the Jeep, Charlotte took one look at it, screwed up her face and burst into tears. She knew that meant being strapped back in, and she wasn’t pleased. It was tempting to let her ride the last bit in on Bob’s lap, but after what I’d been hearing about the roads we weren’t going to risk it. Painted Wheel wasn’t churned too badly, so we got to our camp with no issues, said hello, and started unloading.
The tent did indeed bang up fairly quickly, and Bob was dispatched to the storage unit to pick up the big stuff. Which illustrated the next difficulty from our chaotic check-in. Where’s the rear-view mirror hanger? I didn’t get one – I though they were giving it to you. Nope. No tag. So he slogged back to troll to pick one up and I mentally kicked myself from one end of the camp to the other. If we do this again, there will be no "helping" by another staff member. When you fracture the procedures among four people, things get screwed up. In a little bit he came back with the parking tag and headed for the storage unit, armed with a list and print outs of photos with items circled on them. While he did that I arranged as much of the rest of the stuff as I could. Unfortunately I was feeling clumsy in my sneakers, hadn’t unpacked my turnshoes yet, and didn’t want to destroy my socks, so I was barefoot in the tent. There’s a reason that I never good barefoot (aside from needing my orthotics.) I trotted over to the common fly to either tell Susan something or ask her something, and stepped on something sharp – like a spiky piece of grass. I kind of brushed the bottom of my foot against my jeans to dislodge it, but it still hurt. I stopped to brush it off with the side of my hand, and just as it was too late to stop saw the stinger and the little venom sack. Yep. Stepped on a bee. Unfortunately the stinger part of the stinger was still in there, and my tweezers were packed – somewhere. Also, I haven’t been stung since I was seven or eight years old, so I had no idea what the reaction was going to be. Susan went to get tweezers, but by the time she got them it had swelled up enough to make the little piece of stinger unreachable. And it had started to hurt. Holy crud it hurt!
The bottom of your food is a bad place for things like that, by the way. It was right where the arch would be if I had any.
So she got me an ice cube and some Benadryl gel, and we figured after about five minutes that if I was going to have a bad reaction it would have happened by then, so it was just a matter of trying to calm down. You see, I’m phobic about bees, wasps, or anything that flies and buzzes/stings/bites. Horribly. I’m that girl who screams and runs. So everyone out there should be very proud of how calm I was about the whole thing. The timing also really stunk – bee sting to the bottom of the foot during setup. Ug. Luckily, the owie didn’t last as long as I feared it would, so it really only impacted setup. The stinger bit was still in there, but I figured it was the equivalent of a fine splinter and it would work it’s way out eventually. I didn’t want to go digging it out while we were there – that’s a surefire recipe for an infection. Bob got back with the furniture and we got things set up while I wrangled an increasingly unhappy baby. She was not a fan of the heat and humidity, didn’t want her lunch, didn’t want her dinner, didn’t want to be distracted – it was difficult.
Susan and Thorolf fed us dinner – venison chunks wrapped in bacon, couscous and edamame. What’s not to love there? After dinner we took Charlotte out for a walk to try to settle her down. My back gave out before she did, and I gave up. We got back to the tent to try to put her (and me) down, and it became apparent just how much I hadn’t gotten done before we headed out. When we’re in a tent that crowded, everything *has* to be put away, or you can’t find anything. I hadn’t gotten everything put away, and as a result I indeed couldn’t find things I needed. Like my alarm clock. At that point after a fit of temper I decided that I was on vacation and I just wasn’t going to get up at 6:00am. That’s what vacations are for, right? The other problem was that I hadn’t anticipated how chilly it was going to get at night and I hadn’t brought pajamas for Charlotte. I figured the difficulty was going to be keeping her cool enough, not warm enough. I dug out a couple of blankets to put on her, and finally ended up tenting the moses basket with a fleece blanket to make a warm little baby cave. That seemed to work okay.
I kept waking up all night. Partly from worry about the potato beetles crawling in my ears (I woke up to one crawling on my neck that evening,) and partly from worrying about Charlotte a) being too cold and b) having potato beetles crawl into her ears because she kept pulling the netting off. Also, I was just uncomfortable. I decided to leave my body pillow home because it’s pretty bulky, and in hindsight that probably was not the correct decision. But eventually I did get to sleep.
And the morning and the evening was the first day.