Bike Lanes, Spiked Coffee, and One Very Drunk Raccoon
The story of the worst camping trip in human history. Thank Ost Neer for this as he encouraged me to post this
When ever someone tells me they have a terrible camping trip, I always tell them that this story tops it all and it does. This story has everything. Malfunctioning hardware, near death experiences, sleeping in the cold, and yes, a drunk raccoon. When I was 7 my family (all 4 of my sisters and both parents) decided to go camping for the first time in 17 plus years, and the first family vacation in 12 years. My family was very inexperienced with this thing called a vacation. At this time my oldest sibling was 19, the next was 17, the next 14, me 7, and my youngest sister was 4.
The destination was a place called Portola State Park in central California. Never mind that my family lives in Washington and Oregon. "Well kids, every single campsite in both states are booked up. We have to drive 15 plus hours to Central California to be like homeless people for a week when we could just do it and have the same experiences downtown and spend less." My family are glampers, and still are. I do long distance hiking now. I go out for a week or more at a time and have nothing with me than what I brought. They have to have everything, air-mattresses, pancake mix, electricity and a water spigot next to the campsite, top it off with a large tent that we all have to fit in. It's safe to say that the only good part of this trip was we stopped at Crater Lake on the way down to California.
Using map quest because this is 14 years ago in the days before iphones and live GPS, which for you younger readers would be impossible to comprehend, but to us more aged people, we know the drill. After a long drive through Washington and Oregon, my family finally arrived at the road to turn off to the campsite. The road was a perilous one, literally. It turned out to be a very narrow road next to a cliff, sheer drop down for like 200 feet, with no guardrail, which for our Ford Windstar, a boat on wheels or as Larry Van Zandt put it, a crosswindstar, became a very hard road to manage. Soon we found the those communist idjits all us motorists hate: the cyclist. It was impossible to pass the suckers. They pulled off to the side and proceeded to cuss us out and flip us off. We journeyed on this road for almost 40 minutes and exit finally inside the campground. My mother looked in the rear-view mirror and was shocked at what she saw. She saw a sign that read "Portola State Park Bike Path Entrance". Yes, we had taken the damn bike path to enter.
By then it was almost 9 pm. The Ranger station was closing and there were no more check-ins allowed. My Dad caught a ranger and managed to get us checked in. My parents had requested their biggest campsite because they bought a seven person tent. What already was a disaster (your first clue were the words 'seven person tent') turned into a bigger one. The campsite was on considerable slope that led to an uprooted redwood. My family still disgruntled started to set up camp. My dad had packed a battery powered air-mattress pump, because he's a glamper. He had charged it, however when we arrived at said campsite, it was dead. He had to pop the hood open, connect it to the battery, and pump the air-mattresses up that way. So he ended standing at the top of this large slope under the hood of the van whilst balancing the air-mattress that was slowly filling up with air. Imagine trying to hold a bouncy castle as it filled up, it was like that. It was a nightmare. But that's not all oh no....
We finally got all the air-mattresses all pumped up and into the tent. We were settling down for the night. My mother whipped up a batch of coffee for my dad. However, this was no ordinary coffee. She put two shots of scotch in this sucker to help Dad wind down and sleep better. All 7 of us were in the tent getting the final touches on our sleeping arrangements for the night when I looked outside and saw a large raccoon sitting on the picnic table not drinking but guzzling, no chugging is a better word, the cup of spiked coffee . After it finished the coffee, it fell of the picnic table and staggered off into the woods. We didn't think anything of it, Mom made Dad a new cup of spiked coffee, and we all crawled in bed.
In order to understand the story a bit more, you need to know on how we were arranged in the tent. My parents were at the head of the tent with my younger sister, Olivia, in between them because they didn't want her to get cold despite the fact that they put a sweatshirt and sweatpants over her pajamas (paranoid, right?). Me and my sister Rachel shared a mattress (all in our own individual sleeping bag, and my other sisters Bethany and Rebekah on theirs in their own sleeping bags. We fell asleep after a few minutes, but were soon woken up to something chittering outside our tent, then we felt something running around the tent and not stopping. Then suddenly it stopped, ran over to the side of the tent and started feeling what lay beyond the curtain. Soon we heard Bethany snap "Rachel, stop patting my head!!" "I'm NOT patting your head!!" "Then what's patting my head?!" The coon then started to mess with the tent poles and shake the tent. Soon the top of the tent was moving faster than Michael Flatley's feet and covering more ground than a wound up 6 year old in a big back yard. After this persisted for what seemed like an eternity, the bastard finally left us in peace, although that was short lived.
But wait there's more. Remember that Olivia was in between my parents, and that she was wear a considerable amount of clothes to keep her warm and was also in her own sleeping bag as well. Well, she got too warm and started squirming in her sleep. My parents figured that she was too warm and decided it was best to take her sweatshirt and sweatpants off without waking her up so she was just in her pajamas. How hard could it be, right? Well, imagine what it would be like to wrestle a Hulk Hogan sized alligator that's covered in coconut oil. Like that. To make matters worse, this one woke up and yelled with a sweet, little human voice making the redwood forest ring with "No, Daddy, no! Don't take off my pants, Daddy! Don't take off my shirt, Mommy!" Lights flashed in our direction and it didn't help that my parents tried to shush Olivia as to no disturb anyone, but that's not suspicious at all is it?
To make matters worse, my oldest sister Bethany decided she had to go to the bathroom and couldn't go by herself. So, she made Mom go with her. Irritated, my Mom reluctantly went with her to the bathroom, which was about 200 yards away. The trudged along the walkway to the bathroom. And just when they get in view of the bathroom.....a big. Fat. Skunk. The skunk walked out in front of them. Bethany screamed. My mom turned off the flashlight, grabbed Bethany, and just about dragged her back to the tent as fast as she could. How they avoided being sprayed is beyond me. By this point Mom looked at Dad and said "We're leaving first thing in the morning!!"
In the morning we were getting ready to leave this horrid hell hole. After all my sisters had changed their clothes, Mom sent me into the tent to change. Something was wrong with my clothes however. They had shrunk, and I mean "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" shrunk. I stood in the door of the tent, with them unbuttoned as far as I could get them up my legs and shouted "Mom! Something's wrong with my pants." Mom looked at Rebekah and said "Why did you pack Olivia's pants in Jared's backpack?" "Those aren't Jared's pants?" So yes, I had no pants, no sleep, and Dad had no spiked coffee.
We finally got everything in the car to go, start the van, but for some reason its moving awfully slow and weird. Dad got out and for the first time ever in my life, I heard him swear. We had two flat tires...