I got to the state park in the afternoon. I’d ridden less than thirty miles but the cumulative effects of being old, slow, weak, and lazy made it feel like 300.
The entry kiosk had a yellow hotline to Washington State Parks where you can check in and pay by credit card. I called. “I want a bike spot for one night.”
“We don’t have those but we have regular ones.”
“The camp host said you had them.”
“But he’s at the camp site. He’s the camp host.”
“My computer says we don’t have those but we have a regular one. It will accommodate your vehicle up to 28 feet.”
“My vehicle is a bicycle and it’s about six feet long. It fits nicely into, you know, a ditch.”
“Would you like the spot?”
“$32 please. I can take your card when you’re ready.”
I wasn’t ready but I wasn’t willing to sleep in another Camp Tampon so I gave her the card and went to my campsite. I pitched my tent and started cooking my pork chops with green onions, mushrooms, garlic, bell peppers, and a leftover baguette.
The camp hostess came over. “What are you cooking? That smells incredible!”
“Just pork chops.”
“On what? I don’t see a stove or anything!”
I pointed to my tiny stove. “This is all I have.”
“My goodness! That smells better than what we’ve been cooking in our RV kitchen. Say … are you just a bike camper?”
“That’s all. Unfortunately.”
“Then why are you in this RV space? They cost $32 a night but the hiker-biker sites are only $12.”
“I know. But the reservations lady wouldn’t sell me one.”
“You’re joking. Why not?”
“She said there aren’t any.”
The camp hostess threw up her hands. “That’s outrageous. The hiker-biker spot is RIGHT THERE. We were so excited to you! We haven’t had a hiker-biker all year! I’ll get to the bottom of this!”
I looked around for some hike to go with my bike, hoping it might help my appeal.
She stamped off and came back in a couple of minutes. “I spoke with the ranger. If you’ll move to the hiker-biker site they’ll refund your money. I’m so sorry!”
“No problem. Thank you for getting that fixed!”
I finished dinner and moved my site. My new neighbors were four alcoholmen who had driven down from the Olympic Peninsula for the seasonal running of the alcohol. They had a giant RV, a huge pickeverythingup truck, a boat, and their living room. Other than thatthey were rolling spartan af. From the looks of it they’d had a very successful day out on the river.
“You might regret switching sites!” one of the alcoholmen yelled over, jollily. “We’re kind of enjoying ourselves!”
AC/DC blasted from the home stereo system because you can leave behind the comforts home for the rugged survivalism of a 28-foot RV as long as you have AC/DC to get you through the tough times, i.e. the six or eleven steps between your recliner and the margarita machine.
“What are you guys fishing for?” I asked.
“Alcohol,” the guy, Jackson, said. “They have a very successful alcohol hatchery program here on the Cowlitz River. Huge releases and a lot of good clean water up behind the dam so they can perfectly regulate the river levels; that’s crucial for the fingerling alcohols and for the older alcohols as they swim up-bottle to spawn.”
“How was today’s guzzle?”
“We pulled in so many alcohols!” he said gaily. I saw a half-dozen bottles of tequila connected with a stringer in the main cooler. They had that listless look of alcohols in a tank knowing that it was only a matter of time.
“Those are some big alcohols!” I said.
“Yessir. Caught most of ’em with our bare hands.” He staggered over to the margarita machine and topped off his 1-quart plastic cup.
It was nearing dinnertime so the other alcoholmen stumbled out of the RV and began frying up the freshly caught alcohols. Pretty soon the whole campground was filled with the smell of grilled alcohols and the muttered incoherence of utterly smashed alcoholmen. “Come have an alcohol!” Jackson waved to me. “You won’t regret it until tomorrow morning!”
“Thanks!” I said. “I’m a breathanarian; I quit eating alcohols five years or so ago. I couldn’t tolerate the pain they go through when they are slaughtered.”
“I hear ya. But they is some good eatin’!”
Before long everyone had passed out. I lay in my tent savoring the beautiful night sounds of the forest blended peacefully with the sonorous snores of the wasted alcoholmen as they sleep-apneaed in a symphonic synchronicity of diabetes, clogged arteries, and incipient congestive heart failure.
The next morning I got up and watched them emerge from their massive carbon footprint. “Shit,” said Jackson. “Those fucking alcohols will give you a nasty fucking hangover if you aren’t careful.”
“Were you careful?” I asked.
He lit a cigarette to go with the one that was already burning in his other fist, then he raised the back of his hand to wipe the Ganges of sweat off his temple, grimacing. “I reckon maybe I wasn’t.”
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