As summer approaches and I mull over our vacation options, I’ve been reminiscing a bit about vacations past. Warm, sunny days spent at the beach getting sunburned and bitten by sand fleas. Crazy weeks spent in log cabins hiking trails, dodging bats, and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. Long car rides to state parks with no air conditioning to a chorus of, “She’s touching me.” Fourteen sweating people in Nagshead, NC sharing a non-air-conditioned cabin. Colicky babies. Hurricane evacuations. Emergency room visits. High old times all. But one vacation sticks in my mind particularly.
Probably because it was it was my first ‘adult’ vacation. It was the summer of 1970 and my best friend, Linda, and I decided we would go on a real vacation by ourselves. After much mulling on what would be fun and, most importantly, cheap we settled on camping in Massachusetts. God only knows why.
I now think of it as a learning experience. We learned rather quickly that we did not like camping. We learned that neither of us is particularly fond of the great outdoors. We learned that both of us had, and still do, deep reservations about any proximity to bugs of any kind.
But it was an adventure. We set off one morning in late June in my little yellow Opel – the worst car in the world - loaded down with every conceivable camping accoutrement Linda could get her hands on. She was working at Atlas Sporting Goods at the time and had ample opportunity to select among other things, matches that would still light when wet. In case, I suppose, we decided to cookout in the rain.
We set out on a bright sunny morning and wended our way up the East Coast toward Boston. Now, I must admit that my memory is a bit hazy. It was forty-nine years ago and I haven’t gotten to that stage of dementia where I can remember past events clearly, but nothing from yesterday. I simply can’t remember either much of the time. Anyway, we got to Boston and spent a lovely day walking around the city. Saw a matinee of Hair and felt quite urbane.
From there we went to Gloucester, Salem and Plymouth. We visited Hawthorne’s birthplace, saw the Mayflower II, stood off the shore and stared at the spot the Hesperus wrecked, and watched a lobster boat bring in its catch. Word to the wise, if you see the odd lobster claw on the ground you probably do not want to pick it up, stick it in your trunk, and take it home as a souvenir.
We spent two nights of our adventure sleeping in the car. One because we saw a large bear in the camp grounds which turned out to be a medium sized dog. The other because a vicious mosquito had gotten into our tent. We had one emergency car repair and, believe it or not, didn’t have one drop of alcohol the entire week. What were we thinking?
However, all of these were just stops on our way to lay in the sand at Cape Cod and frolic in the ocean. When we got there, we found out that there is no ocean beach at Cape Cod. At least none that we could find. There is just an incredibly rocky shore. No wonder the Hesperus wrecked. We finally located a small sandy beach on the bay side of the cape. It wasn’t really what we had hoped for.
The highlight of the week, if you can call being scared silly a highlight, came when we went walking on the sand dunes. The dunes in 1970 were pretty spectacular. Miles of rolling sand mountains under a gorgeous blue sky. I don’t know if they have since been eroded by wind and tourists, but back in the day they were really something.
We seemed to be the only tourists in the area that day. We were trudging along, up and down the dunes, giving our legs quite a work-out when a man approached us from out of nowhere. Suddenly, there we were all alone on a vast expanse of sand with this weird little man. It felt uncomfortable right away. But we said hello politely because we were polite young women and walked on. But he felt the need to chat. He informed us in a, frankly, scary kind of way that four bodies had been found not long before right where we were walking.
I now know that he was not the murderer because that man had already been arrested. But at the time, Linda and I weren’t sure just who we were conversing with. Was this guy implying that he actually had planted the four bodies and was wondering if we would like to make to six? Or was he just an ass with a warped sense of humor? Or, perhaps, a self-appointed tour guide? Whichever, we were not sticking around to find out. We just smiled goofily and made tracks back to the car as fast as you can make tracks when wading through the sand. No doubt he had quite a little laugh at our expense.
The rest of our journey was unremarkable other than a rather exciting drive down a mountain followed by a semi without his load who really would have preferred us to go a lot faster. We made it home in one piece, and icing on the cake, have remained best friends, but have never even considered camping again.