Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

You don't have to be Sigmund Freud to figure out I've been less than content as of late. Since much, though not all, of my frustration centers around city-life (turns out I may be more "rural" than I care to admit), a few weeks ago Washington and I booked a campground miles upon miles away.

The idea being to increase the distance between myself and the traffic jams and apartment woes (no, I haven't finished unpacking yet) that mark my daily existence. Turns out EVERY ONE in the city is in search of "fresh air" over Memorial Day weekend.

So the crowds essentially followed us there.

But that's besides the point. Let's begin at — where else — the beginning.

After Washington picked me up at my place...

We drove a few hours, with he in the driver's seat and me playing navigator (stop laughing — I'm much better at reading a map than I used to be). As we approached the campgrounds, I couldn't help but notice a rather disconcerting "DISCLAIMER" in the reservation printout:

"Sites 66 through 81 are close to the ExpressWay, and so there is a SIGNIFICANT amount of highway noise."

I asked Washington if he'd read that far into the reservation. He said no. I asked if there was any warning about the noise levels before and/or during the actual act of making reservations. He said he couldn't remember.

Suffice it to say I realized early on why he'd chosen our spot. Because, let's be honest, grown men aren't exactly beacons of maturity.

OK, OK. So I chuckled when I saw the campsite. But let's keep that between us.

Fact remains, I sleep better with a little white noise. While "crickets" normally satisfy that category just fine, the highway traffic was constant enough to qualify. Besides, it helped block out the sound of our neighbors, who may have otherwise been quite annoying. Still, I couldn't help but think of my buddy Thoreau, and that train whistle interrupting the tranquil quiet of Walden pond.

We were out of the car no more than 90 seconds when Washington alerted me to the presence of two caterpillars crawling up my pants' leg. I named one 'Rufus' and commented on how prejudiced we females are when it comes to insects. Give them hair and pretty colors, and we'll pluck them from our clothes and place them gently on a twig. But if they're black, brown and/or off-white and have a hard shell (or are covered in slime), and we won't hesitate to end their lives with the swift kick of a boot (though I was kind enough to the two disgusting cicadas I saw).

Turns out Rufus was just one of many "eastern tent" caterpillars out on the prowl. It didn't take long to determine the park was battling an infestation of Alfred Hitchcock-esque proportions.

We spent much of the weekend pulling them off our clothes, the picnic table and — yes — even throwing them out of the car.

Not only is the situation absolute chaos, but it promises to get worse as the woods was replete with still more nests that hadn't yet unhatched.

The "eastern tent" caterpillar is supposedly so-named because of the shape of its nest.

[Though I hypothesized it had more to do with the fact that made a home out of my tent.]

After setting up camp, we headed into a nearby town to see what the area offered. What we saw was, by far, one of the oddest "communities" I've ever stepped foot in.

But more about that later. First off, there was Go Kart racing.

Gasoline for a Trip out of the City: $70
Two tickets for Go Kart Racing: $12
Beating Your Smack-Talking Boyfriend to the Finish*: Priceless

We also visited a well-known "circus town" where Ringling Bros. used to spend its winters. Couldn't help but wonder what sort of freaks would hail from a place like that.**

The next day was off to a lazy start. It was almost 3 p.m. before we made it to a "decent" trail, and by that point we had to choose one that was a mere 4 miles round trip, just to ensure we wouldn't be out past dusk.

The first half was a bit of a bummer: just a path cut through rocks, the width too narrow to pass others. So we were continuously stepping off to the side to allow oncoming traffic (and believe me, there was traffic) to pass.

Along the way, we saw this:

"Pier Pressure"

We stopped to see whether or not this kid jumped, as the water was shallow beneath that ledge — not to mention, rocks were dangerously pointing out from the water. And yet, his friends shouted up from the surface, demonstrating their vast range of synonyms for the word "wimp."

After a couple minutes of hem-hawing — starting, and then stopping — he eventually did a bullet drop straight into the water. We waited to make sure he re-surfaced (i.e. survived) and then continued on.

Though when we turned off the beaten path and made a steady climb 1,100 feet up, we saw turkey vultures circling where he'd been diving. Reason enough to not give into peer pressure, wouldn't you say? Certainly makes you think.

But I'm tired of writing — and you're probably tired of reading — so how about if I just show you a few pictures from the less-trafficked portion of our pseudo-hike:

Note how the background colors change with the symmetry of leaves.

This shows you how high we climbed — not much at all, really. But still enough that my trick knee made all sorts of funny sounds.

We started at the same elevation as the road below, pictured here.

Meanwhile, back at the camp...

Remember how I said the nearby town was a bit eccentric? I took some photos during a "drive-by" the next day.

I have no idea what this contraption is.

This pretty much sums up my last apartment.

We wanted to dine someplace "local," so we tried this cute little Mom & Pop.***

Note the name.

The below motel really should consider coming up with a new new name, or at least a slightly less depressing sign.

"Where you stay when you really have nothing left to lose."

There was even an amusement park themed after Ancient Greece. Must admit to thinking this was actually pretty darn cool.

Cool as it was, the Trojan Horse was a tad-bit foreboding. So we headed out of town, with the intention of taking a slight detour south.

But let us not forget, this was Memorial Day. While we were driving around exploring the countryside, 10 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq.

In Memoriam

That's just disturbing enough, it doesn't seem right to continue on. So let's start a new section.


What happens when you take an eccentric man, given him loads of cash, and instill in him a distaste for Frank Lloyd Wright?

You get one really weird house, built into the rocks in the middle of nowhere. We're talking carousels made of headless mannequins, a room that staircases out over the woods below and then ends in a vanishing point (see the "Infinity Room" below) and entire symphonies of instruments that play on their own.

And by that I mean: cellos, guitars, harps, pianos and tambourines — just to name a few — that serenade you with creepy music without the intervention of a musician's hands.

This is a bit of a misnomer, as the room has a discernible vanishing point.

A view from the "Infinity Room"

"Exit to Nowhere"

I loved the concept of this door, as the blue stained glass reminds you you're actually several feet in the air. It's true there's a fire escape beyond the exit, but that's besides the point.

I found it to be entirely poetic.

So what did I learn this weekend?

•My camera still works from time to time
•I have no idea what "dells" are, but I now know what they aren't (for years, I've belabored under the assumption that they were a series of large hills)
•Caterpillars are just as disgusting as all other bugs
•Women are just as disgusting as, if not more so than, men (details to come in a future post)

And last but not least:

I could have a promising career in NASCAR.

*Washington claims he "let" me win. And whether he "slowed down" or not to make the race more competitive, the fact remains I started three kart-lengths behind him AND passed everyone between us. There were 8 karts racing. Washington was the 2nd to go. I was the 5th. And yet... I finished 1st. So there.

**If you know me, you know that's (sorta) funny.

***Not really.


Michael K said...

The contraption you saw is a water park attraction that is totally friggin awesome! You go from the tower, down the tube and spin around like crazy in the wheel. It's totally awesome. It's at an indoor water park i went to last year. You should go when it's the dead of winter.

A said...

*teehee* Circus towns!

Oh man.

Oh, by the way, the caterpillers creep me the heck out.

On the note of rural / city life, you need a suburb. I cant deal with big city livin' but i need the ammenities of a real town.

Gotta love Glen Ellyn. :)

Take care, and I'm glad to see a post i didnt need to Snope.

No, really, I love reading your posts at work.

~~ AJ

XOXO said...

My dad made me walk out on that infinity thing when I was little and terrified of heights. There is still a picture of me bawling standing at the end. Boo!

Really a somber thought of the soldiers. We need reminding of that.

HaHa! 69!! Nice one Washington!

Why is it that I have no problem squishing moths, but I just can't make myself squish the worm?

Lee said...

That was a most eclectic collection of pictures. Thanks for sharing Mario Andretti!

Meh said...

The novelty of Ho-Chunk casino is worn off of me, since my grandmother went up there for bingo trips for years and years. I think we still have sweatshirts with the bingo ball on them. :)

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you had quite the adventure. Do you feel refreshed and ready once again for city life? Didn't think so. Yeah, you are still a little rural. So am I.

Some grown men are beacons of maturity! (Or fake it rather well. Mostly. If we are in the right mood. And there isn't something else to do. :))

I can't wait for the future post about women. :-P

Woodrow said...

I'm a country bumkin. I love to visit the city, but after about a week I'm ready for fresh air and no lines.

That's a pretty lake.

Anonymous said...

you stay at devil's lake?


Stacy said...

I used to love tent caterpillars, until some neighborhood bullies, that I had a crush on, threw them at me and squished them all over my hair.
Totally disgusted by them now.
I am pretty sure they do not turn into gypsy moths,that's strange someone would tell you that.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Michael - I figured it had something to do with water (since everything else there does), but it was so oddly shaped, I just wasn't sure. Definitely sounds like fun.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

AJ - I'm beginning to think I don't belong anywhere. I get bored in small towns, and anxious in big cities.

What I need is a little big city. And a 5 minute commute.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

XOXO - That's terrible. Seriously. But if we want to add something into the "pro" column, you've got to give your father credit for actually taking you places. And someplace like this house?

I'm beginning to think your dad has seen just about everything stateside.

Lee - So long as my camera works, I'm happy to share.

Meh - I didn't even THINK about stopping for merchandise. Now I feel like my trip was kinda incomplete...


thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

BPP - What. So now men fake it too?

Woodrow - I'm the same way in both directions. I really need to find a place that offers a fair balance of city-living and wide open spaces.

DS - Nope. But that's a very good guess. :)

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Stacy - I wasn't so much told, per se, as there were signs up all over the place with pictures of larvae (labeled "Eastern Tent Caterpillars"), a photo of a sample "tent" next, and a full-grown gypsy moth. Either the park service needs a lesson in etymology, or I was wrong to associate all three just because they were on the same sign.

However you look at it, I did a little research, and you are absolutely right. I'll go back and revise the story when there's time.

Also... ewwww. I hope the crush ended with the, eh, "crushing"?

Winter said...

I'm so jealous right now.