Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Almost Heaven

Camping again. This time in the hills of West Virginia. But try as I might to hear any faint trace of “Dueling Banjoes” filtering through the rustle of the leaves in the breeze, the only music I hear here is Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Kelly Rowland. Yep, I’m in another gay campground. After visiting my sister north of Pittsburgh, Ranger Rudy hauled Penelope Pop Up, my cat Osito, and me up some very back country mountain roads to a place called Roseland Resort.

Once again I had trouble hitching Penelope to Rudy. The hitch didn’t want to seat itself completely on the ball. The last time that happened I was pulling Penny back to her home, a field full of RV’s where she rests when I am not using her. (No place to keep her in New York.) As I drove over a bump, the hitch had finally settled into position. So I decided to drive around the block at my sister’s development hoping for the same luck. I drove over the curb, across every bump I could find, and slammed on the brakes a few times. The hitch didn’t budge. I turned a very sharp curve onto the steep hill back to my sister’s townhouse then backed into her driveway. Penelope tracked perfectly through it all but the hitch was still sitting too high on the ball. Oh well, it seemed to tow well enough so I bid my sister farewell, loaded Osito into the truck and we were West Virginia bound.

About a half mile later there was a bang and Ranger Rudy began to swerve erratically. I didn’t have to look to know what had happened. I managed to get Rudy and the unhitched Penelope off to the side of the road. The tongue of the trailer was on the pavement, the emergency chains had dragged it to the side, and the trailer brakes had applied. I could not swing the tongue jack down to raise it back up and I could not lift it by hand. I was stuck.

Fortunately the disaster had occurred across the street from an auto repair shop. Two burly men came to my assistance. All three of us could not lift the surprisingly heavy Penny so they retrieved a hydraulic floor jack from their shop and wheeled it over. That did the trick. This time the hitch engaged the ball correctly and I was safely underway again. (I have yet to unhitch it; I’m not going to unhitch until this trip is over and Penny is back in her field.)

I am camped on the narrow spine of a ridge with majestic views of the surrounding hills in all directions, mostly carpeted with oak, maple and walnut trees. On the next ridge a huge flame springs into the air day and night, like an eternal torch. It roars like a jet engine. I’m told that it is a gas well burning off methane. I wonder why the energy of the methane could not be used.

It was hot when I arrived but the next morning brought gentle breezes and billowing cumulus clouds decorating the vivid blue sky. I decided to hike one of the many trails that encircle the property. The trails are hilly and, for an out-of-shape person like myself, strenuous. Arriving huffing and puffing at the poolside café, I had lunch. The breeze picked up somewhat and the clouds thickened. A gust almost toppled my umbrella table, but relative calmness followed.

Things were less tranquil up on the ridge where Penelope Pop Up was parked. The wind was whipping up the hillside with a fierceness that launched anything that was either not heavy or not securely tied down. Penelope’s canopy awning had pulled free of it’s stakes and was wrapped backwards over the roof, flapping violently. It’s support poles were still attached and splayed about threatening severe damage to anything in their reach. I struggled to retrieve the awning but the wind, now howling, made it impossible. The seam where the awning attaches to the roof was torn almost half its length. In the end I had no choice but to tear it the rest of the way so I could free the awning, roll it up and prevent further damage.

The wind continued to howl the rest of the day and throughout the night. Penelope was buffeted about to the point that I worried that it, and Osito and I, would be blown off the ridge and, like Dorothy, we might find ourselves in Munchkin Land. We were safe, but sleep was difficult and Osito was alarmed.

My eye doctor friend and his partner were also camping at Roseland, but they had wisely opted to rent a cabin rather than staying in Penelope with me. I joined them for dinners which we prepared in their kitchen. The winds had subsided somewhat but it had turned sharply colder. We bought some wood from the camp store at one dollar per stick and looked forward to a nice fire in their fireplace. Unfortunately our expensive wood resisted all efforts to light.

Roseland provides an abundance of activities; it reminded us of a land based cruise ship. There were theme parties each night. I recycled a costume from a long ago party for the Roman toga night. It was amazing to see how many men in a remote campground had brought elaborate costumes for multiple events. I was slightly annoyed with how many of my fellow campers were obsessed with sex. When are people going to realize that a hot tub is better for relaxing your aching back than for stimulating your hyperactive front?

I was favorably impressed with Roseland and with its new management. The facilities are superior. There is even an observatory on the highest hill with nightly programs presented by the resident astronomer. I was not so impressed with the drive up the mountain from the Ohio River. It took almost an hour to go 20 miles over crumbling narrow roads with steep hills up and down, through hairpin turns and endless switchbacks. Not the kind of driving where you can relax and enjoy the scenery.

This trip was meant to be a dress rehearsal for an extended road trip through the south that I might take this winter. Of course that assumes I will solve the cranky trailer hitch problem, repair or replace the awning, fix the plumbing leak (again), find out why the brakes don’t always work, and steel myself for endless hours of hauling a 3000 pound trailer with a little V6 Ranger. Airplanes and hotel rooms are starting to sound a lot more attractive.

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