Camp face

Camp face is what you get in the morning when you are not used to sleeping on the ground or in an RV, henceforth called a “junk hauler.” Why “junk hauler”? Because they aren’t recreational at all. People who drag them around are the last ones you see out doing anything, let alone riding the bikes or paddling the canoes they have strapped to the back.

Nor are they vehicles, since the vast majority are trailers, and the ones that are self-propelled go nowhere except a parking space. I guess you could call them MCFPDs, Massive Carbon Footprint Parking Devices, but lets’ stick with “junk hauler” because it fits so well.

Anyway, I first became aware of camp face when I was at the toilets and saw women walk up with hoodies pulled so far down that you could barely see their chins. It dawned on me that for a lot of people the first step in the day to becoming a person is covering their face with makeup and getting their hair properly haired. But in the morning, all you see are people with camp face, deep haggard lines of grey and purple, sallow skin from all the alcohols, and everything hidden that can be.

Yesterday I got to Jack’s Bikes and sure enough they took my bike, put it on the stand, and concluded that there was some mystery something with the other doodad that meant the thing connected to the hip bone wouldn’t ever work but GOOD NEWS! I could send it back to the manufacturer, Mr. Johnathan Sram, and they would send me a new one for free, and then I’d be back on the road.

I looked glum.

The mechanic, a really nice guy named Lucas, added “But that probably won’t help you much, will it?”

“Will the perpetual brake drag result in catastrophic failure?”

“Of the bike? Or you?”

“Either. Both.”

“Nope. You should be fine.” Then he put on a fresh tar. “These tars you have are too soft. You need something heavier.”

“I’ve only had two flats in 1,600 miles.”

“Trust me.”


He put on some much heavier tars and sent me on my way, which was about 100 yards because the tube hadn’t seated properly and rolled with a huge bump. I went back.

The other mechanic nodded as I explained the problem, and sagely added, “Anything worth doing is worth doing twice.”

I was now $73 poorer in cash but $73 richer in the knowledge that nothing could be done, and grateful that they’d taken care of me so quickly and professionally. All cyclists have a soft spot for long-distance tourists on broken bikes, or at least a spot that isn’t hard as iron. Usually.

Twenty-five miles later I was back in camp and surprised to see that the neighboring site had been invaded by body snatchers. Instead of the loud and drunken and macho Jacob there sat a person who looked exactly like him only surrounded by his wife and mother-in-law. A bike was even present, with which to lean the car up against. I had low hopes that the bike would ever be actually ridden, as it appeared to be quantumly entangled with the car.

Jacob looked really glum, but even in his sober state he was the world’s richest deep-mine vein of dumbness. If he had been a movie, it would have been “Dumb and Duh.”

“Y’know,” he said to his wife, “my dream vacation is just gettin’ drunk and wasted.”

So he was, you know, actually living the dream. A kind of artist in the alcohols, an alcoholman Vincent van Gone.

Then he looked sadly at his wife and m-i-l. “I was perfectly happy without you both here. I’m glad you came, though.”

His m-i-l insulted him in Spanish. “He is a big lazy drunk.”

“What’s she saying?”

“That you are a hard-working man.”

“Darned right I am.”

As I watched this little bit of family hell play out, a man drove up towing his 30-foot junk hauler. He was going to dock the SS Crap into a very tiny slip, designed in 1936 for campers who camped with these things called “tents.”

“This,” I said to myself as I noted the strained look on his face, “is gonna be good.”

It took him an hour to get it backed in, clogging the one-way, narrow park road so that none of the other junk haulers could get by. Everyone was used to it, though. His wife was the equivalent of a tugboat pilot and she looked the part. The way she ran from side to side of that junk hauler I figure she got enough exercise to last her until they sailed into the next port.

“Left! Left!” and “No! Right!” followed by my all time fave, “Watch that tree!”

The tree was unable to get out of the way in time and Ol’ Joe backed the trailer, irresistible force, into the tree, immovable object. A huge shaking of leaves and falling of branches occurred, and an even bigger falling of oaths.

When the hawsers were tied, Cap’n Crapper climbed off the deck, sopping in sweat. “You did great!” his first mate shouted.

And that’s when I did the arithmetic: 1 Junk Hauler parking job = 1 year off your life. This poor guy looked awful, and to think this was his R&R. Next he had to unhitch the SS Crap from his $75,000 pick-them-up-truck, an equally complex operation, after which he had to level the ship, extend her wings, connect various lines, and do all manner of tasks before he could climb belowdecks and wrestle some alcohols to the ground.

The next time I saw him he had won the wrestling match, and several more besides, as he smelled like a gin factory.

It occurred to me that the allure of the junk hauler was that you could leave your home, which you hated, but still be insulated from Jacob. Best of all, it took so much time to chart the course, provision, sail, and dock the garbage barge that there was no time left to do anything but wrestle with the alcohols. Plus you had a cheering section to praise you for docking without knocking over the 1,000-year-old tree, although it wasn’t as straight as it had been at the start of the day.

I felt insignificant in my little tent. Which is, you know, how I like it.


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7 thoughts on “Camp face”

  1. Haha!! That was a good read Seth!!

    What a depressing life ol Jacob sounds to be living in…

  2. My idea of the perfect vacation is what you have been doing, or backpacking in the wilderness. If that wilderness is good ol Western Open wilderness like The High Uintas, or The Eagle Cap Wilderness, or Banff, or The Grand Canyon then it is filled with scenic splendor and more than views than you can imagine. If it is an Eastern Wilderness, then you are locked into a verdant corridor of foliage with hopefully rewarding scenic vistas on every hill. Camping is quiet and usually I have the place to myself, and the water source is a delicious babbling stream not more than 200 meters away. If I have the energy and the time, a nice fire at night.

    I have seen the people you talk of, and they are not who I want to hang around with, though when I do weekend backpack with some of my mates, If there are others around, they may be wondering why we are so loud.

    Anywho, I am planning 8 days on the AT the last week of September and first week of October. Hopefully I will have the trail to myself, and the three others I bring with me.

      1. Understood. For many of my backcountry adventures they begin for one or two nights car camping, because we fly in, rent a vehicle, provision at the REI, and the Sprouts (or Sprouts equivalent), and then drive to where ever it is we are going.
        We did this for Banff in 2016, and had a bucolic spot in the tent only section of the park campground, but we were right on the edge of small camperdon. One of our provisions is related to something sippable in the evening in the back country, and it is usually, and was in 2016, Scotch. I plan out 8 days in the back country, so it is the contents of one bottle per person, transferred to a lighter container. It was during this transfer that we caught the eye of a gentleman on the inside edge of camperville, and he came over to observe. “I don’t know what you boyz are up to (We are late 50’s and early 60’s and he looked about early 70ish) but whatever it is you seem to know what you are doin. That is a mighty fine collection of single malts there.”

        The other thing we learned, about Geography, was that when you find a river that cuts through the mountains, It isn’t usually a road system that goes in first. It’s the railroad. Then when cars came along, they built the Trans Canada, but the railroad is still there, AND more importantly, still functional. It’s basically a single track, and they operate it such that during the day traffic all moves in one direction, and then at night, as in all night, it moves the other direction. The day direction is downgrade, and the night direction is upgrade, so all those diesels are full bore, and the trains come through about every half hour all night long. Though we couldn’t see them during the day, the tracks were only a couple of hundred meters away. We could even hear them two days later up in the wilderness distantly audible.

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