I spent the morning buying food for a cross-country camping/hiking/backpacking road trip — dried fruit, nuts, protein bars, foil-packed tuna, even a few freeze-dried meals from the sporting goods store. When I got back to the house where I am staying (for the next two months, or so I thought), the manager of this manufactured-home park accosted me in her silly plastic-wrapped golf cart and told me I was here illegally and that I had a week to clear out.
“Illegal” seems a bit harsh since I am here by the owner’s permission. Apparently, however, my being here breaks some sort of park rule saying that non-owners can only live here if the owner is in residence. What it comes down to is that, illegal or not, I have to leave in a week.
The people I’m renting from have a small room in another house they will let me move into for a couple of weeks. It’s in a home for old people who need care and I won’t have my own bathroom, so it’s not an ideal situation by any means. It might not be particularly admirable of me, but I cannot handle being around the sick, old, and dying. I’ve had too many years of that, and now I need to feel alive while I still have a bit of youth left in me. (Well, I suppose it’s more accurate to say while I still have a bit of middle age left in me. People keep reminding me that I am no longer young.) People also tell me I am too sensitive, and that is true. I feel for those folks, which makes it all the harder, but they are not me, and I am the one I have to be.
So, unless something else happens to either delay or jumpstart my trip, I will be heading out in about three weeks. I am mostly ready. I still have a few bits of gear to get, such as a polyester hiking shirt. I only have cotton shirts, and apparently, one should wear polyester when one is backpacking because cotton loses its ability to insulate when it gets wet. To me, the solution is not to get wet, but I am trying to pay attention to wiser and more experienced folk. I also need some sort of hanging food sack, but again, I only need that if I am around various wild animals, insects, and rodents. And of course, there are none of those critters out in the wilds, are there?
I’m being facetious, of course. I know I need some sort of food protection if I am camping away from the car. (If the food is in the car, in an odor-proof bag, there shouldn’t be a problem.) I’m just not yet sure what sort of protection to get. A bear canister is overkill for most of where I will be.
People seem to be worried about my taking off in the winter (others are worried about my taking off by myself during any season) but it’s time for me to be adventurous. To see what’s out there in the big wild world. I do heed their worries, though I don’t have many of my own. If the weather is truly atrocious in three weeks, I might talk the woman into letting me stay a couple of more days, or I might get a motel somewhere along the road.
Or . . . whatever comes my way.
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)