The choices of campsites in eastern Colorado are slimmed by the wind.
Also, only towns seem to have campsites, far-apart kinds of towns, and they are not really campsites, they’re RV Parks.
And so, it is with a ‘giving up’ attitude that I decide to check out the Shady Grove RV Park in Seibert, Colorado.
Sometimes you have to ignore the Yelp reviews and look at the other side of things.
The man who greeted us from behind the worn ‘50s era counter—when I finally squeezed through the door that opened only about 60 degrees—wore no shirt. More eager to chat than he is to shave, the man listed the remaining campsites, which numbered three, adding that we could camp in his backyard if none of the options was satisfactory.
I had walked the converted residential lot and concluded only one space remained so I was surprised to learn I’d missed two. Where were they?
He was eager to retain us, to detain us, to succeed in his little venture. I got the feeling that if I asked to borrow a pie pan to accommodate the peaches I’d just picked up, he’d find one for me. An oven too.
He offered to show the sites to me. I expressed enthusiasm.
But instead of going out himself, he summoned his daughter, who we would learn, was returning to college in Minnesota the next day. He did this by calling over his shoulder into what appeared to be the family’s kitchen.
The delicate, beautiful girl with slightly messy, long dark hair, apologized for her pajama pants and showed us a ‘gimpy’ (her word) space between the family home’s boxy add-on that was the office –and a restroom.
I preferred the slim space between a ridiculously large RV and the street. Street? It was really a dirt road, which I couldn’t imagine anyone really used, it being less than a yard from our picnic table.
How wrong I was.
But the people using the road seemed friendly.
The young woman had seen the outer world, knew that we had also, but stood her ground in defense of her father. It was adequate for a tent.
As we walked back I was greeted by a ruddy-faced white-haired round short man not too busy removing his motorcycle helmet to invite me to share a drink later.
After I paid my $21 fee, I assessed the situation. The motorcycle guy seemed to be parked on the opposite side of the world’s largest RV from me.
I cooked dinner and tried not to look in the windows of the RV just a few feet away. But I couldn’t help noticing a sewing machine in the window, and I couldn’t help feeling this was a good sign.
Sure enough, an elderly man emerged as I began washing dishes with the dry sponge and a quart of water at our picnic table. He greeted me politely, asking where I was from.
This is always a difficult question for me.
I grew up in Montana, was born in Hawaii, now live in Virginia…it’s a long story.
He spent his entire career as a research scientist for Ralston-Purina.
I did not want to know the details.
I just wanted to know that he was between me and the motorcycles.
He confirmed that the motorcyclists were planning to leave very early in the morning.
I asked about the sewing machine and the man told me about his wife’s hobby.
Soon we said good-night and retreated to our choices of abode.
Chance, who had been on the downhill side of our tent the prior night, said our tent was too cozy. He wanted to sleep in the truck. I asked the neighbor how wet the grass had been this morning and was warned: lots of dew.
So Chance quickly figured out how to rig a tent using our emergency tarp, propping up the rear end with my lawn chair. Then he climbed aboard and began to snore.
About 5 a.m. I heard boots on the dirt road a few feet from my tent. Then voices. I figured they were at the intersection of the two dirt roads. I reviewed what I had left out on the picnic table. And I listened hard.
Soon I heard a quiet motor start. Several vehicles left slowly, in first gear. I heard tires of something big squishing the gravel very close by.
Then it was quiet and I went back to sleep.
Hours later, as I fell into my lawnchair with a plateful of scrambled eggs and sliced peaches, just as I set my plastic coffee cup on the uneven dead lawn, the window of a SUV slid down and 60-something man addressed me as he might a neighbor. He seemed to enjoy our little camping adventure and asked where we were from and where we were going.
“Chance” wore his Universidad de Salamanca shirt, bright red, as he observed our simple conversation. I felt exposed, vulnerable, as the man observed us from his shiny late-model SUV, but I sensed a jealousy. Was it my rootlessness? Or that I am okay chatting with a stranger stopping by on his way to whatever on a Tuesday morning. What do I have to lose – that he knows about?
He was on his way to his job at the grain silo that had emitted groaning sounds all night? Or to the coffee shop to gab with other retirees? I didn’t ask.
When I returned from the restroom I realized a space had opened up; the motorcycle people and their giant RV had left. The voices I’d heard at the crack of dawn had to have been a discussion of how to get the behemoth vehicle out without running over our tent.
And they’d done it somehow. And quietly. Why am I always surprised by the integrity of people?
I spoke comfortably with the SUV man, almost ready to offer him a paper plate and scrambled eggs.
He seemed to realize the ridiculousness of his envy and put the car in gear. “Y’all have a good trip,” he said. “And be sure to come back to Seibert.”
I tried to conquer the ridiculousness of the idea of returning to this spot.
“You betcha,” was all I could muster. I mean, who knows?