We thank Elaine profusely for letting us invade her home, hug the gang good-bye, and set off on the “real” first leg of our journey. All three groups are initially going in different directions, but will gather together again for our first camping experience at Brushy Lake in the Alabama National Forest.
We load our cooler with food for the first time, then stop at a nearby park for lunch and breathe a sigh of relief for the peace and quiet. Terry and Barb gave us a road atlas as a parting gift and we map out our day’s journey.
Even with our new atlas, we get lost for the first time trying to follow a backwoods couples’ directions through the forest on many forked dirt roads. To the children’s continuing question “How much farther?” we continually answer “Just a few more miles,” that takes hours including all the wrong turns and backtracking. Ray’s nerves by now are totally frayed and tempers flare for not the first or last time. We finally leave the forest behind and drive into a very isolated camp. The kids erupt from the van and Nicole immediately asks “Where’s the bathroom?” which becomes her first question upon arrival in every campground. She’s not at all pleased with the pit toilets. “Yuck! It stinks. There’s just a hole with poopy in the bottom. I looked in.”
“I try to reason, “Well there’s no plumbing out here so this is it. They put chemicals down there to keep the germs away, but not the smell.”
“ I want a toilet. I’m not going in there.”
We raise the new 8×11 foot tent, big enough to serve as a home. Ray and kids build a fire and I enthusiastically cut up and fry chicken with all the fixing on the new camp-stove for our first meal in the woods. It does taste delicious, but cooking will get a lot more casual from now on. Scooter and Nicole are so excited with the new sleeping arrangements they can’t go to sleep. They’re not used to sleeping in the same “room” either, so after a sibling squabble they settle in, exhausted. We sit on a blanket by the fire, (No chairs yet. How’d we forget to buy chairs?) waiting for the rest of the gang to arrive and the kids go to sleep. They do.