The west, settled by men of steel and iron and lead and gunpowder. Men that knew how to scrap and live off the land. Men who knew how to skirt unfriendly natives and trade with the friendly ones. They went forth from families or wives or children and all humanity to find what was out there and how to make a way in the world on their own ground, with their own hands. And with permission from our wives my buddy Omaha and I headed out on our motorcycles to meet up and Indian Caves State Park in the S.E corner of Nebraska.
We met up at the same site that we had used last year, a site I now will refer to as “Tick Cove”. I have pulled a dozen of the nasty buggers off of me and 4 out of me this weekend alone. Omaha, setting up on the other side of the fire ring in a more open area didn't have a one on him. I was obviously on the wrong side of the campground, errr, Wilderness Frontier. I had forged and hunted for the nights meal and found some potatoes and onions and baby carrots and I also had scrounged up meat on the way in. As hunting in the park is forbidden, I brought a tube of hamburger. Washed, diced to appropriate sizes I lumped a mixture of all into our cast iron aluminum foil packages and put them over our evening fire for 45 minutes as the sun went down and we made the final adjustments to our lodgings.
Last year Omaha was in a cot tent but this year, after seeing my relative comfort over several outtings, Omaha was in his own, NEW Hammock. I believe he bought it and suspension at REI when he was up with his family, harummp, Back East. We got him strung fairly tight then went about adjusting his tarp which was a multi utility one big enough for Two hammock really but we set it at an offset angle to give him a breeze through and vision and plenty of coverage. The meal et and the dishes thrown away in the deep dark scrub of this land endless area, areas with conveniently located and serviced trash cans, we watched the fire die down and went to our hangs.
I woke early and got the fire going. Omaha was up a bit later complaining about being too bowed up so as breakfast was re-hydrating we did some ridgeline adjusting, and suspension re proportioning. Less strap more Amsteel were the orders of the day. We ate Oatmeal with freeze dried berries a plenty and Mountain house breakfast scramble on Tortillas AND basically sat around and shot the breeze for quite a bit. Then it was up to get firewood, Ice and fly model airplanes at one of the parks many field. We had both brought combat planes but Omaha's motor was loose and we'd forgotten the tools to fix that. I towed a streamer with mine and invited him to try and cut it as there were a couple of folks watching. Omaha left my streamer but ran into my plane instead and caused some problems with his plane. I noticed something dangling from mine but after circling the field once couldn't determine what it was, so I brought it around and landed it. It was my elevator push-rod. Somehow I'd managed to circle the field a couple times, roll and land fine without an elevator whatsoever. Oh I was giving elevator controls but the airplanes pitch was following it's own accord. I guess it's just a case of two people following the same trail for a while together while on their way to a different destination. I luckily had landed before our trails separated. No matter, I flew another plane for the folks while Omaha did the same and after a few batteries each, we went to the tent campsite where there were electrical outlets. To perform repairs.
Glue guns at their work and battery chargers a working we couldn't help but be noticed by several families taking advantage of the “Free Day” at the park and so with a fresh battery I put my Snow Ball up in this rather confined area. That got a bunch of Oohs and Ahhs from the youngsters who lined up to watch the airplane fly. I tried taking off from a picnic table and went right into a power pole but with little damage I moved the table a bit and took off several more times without incident. The troubles started when I was trying to LAND on the picnic table. I couldn't get lined up with the wind on the first picnic table. Another “Flat-top” proved advantageous and I put it down on her successfully on the first attempt. A feat that I repeated, about 10 attempts later. Why people like to watch the failed attempts more then the successes I don't know. Omaha flew his little plane around and I tried my combat plane that I had just added about a half stick of glue to. Omaha then politely and thankfully scaled a 30 foot tree for me and threw the plane out, which I found out after two more attempts had it's elevator throw adjusted in the crash I've since fixed it. With batteries charged and other batteries diminished we took our bikes/trailers and planes back to the campsite and realized that for tonight’s food we needed butter and we didn't have any. Now I don't know where you live, but in this section of Nebraska they roll the sidewalks up at 5 o’clock and you don't do anything till the next day, and we had about 45 minutes before that happened!
We dropped our trailers and scooted out on the highway on our motorcycles and pegged the throttles throwing danger to the wind, at what we considered to be the maximum legal speed. 20 minutes later we were to town only to find out that THAT town didn't have any food supplies and we needed to be to a town another 15 minutes away. Well now we REALLY trimmed the throttle to legal and made it to the next town only to find out that on Saturday, they were open till 9.
Butter in hand we cruised back to camp and enjoyed a selection of Buffalo Wing filling, Chili Mac and tortillas and a rather nice cheesecake alternative. Ok, it's basically jello style cheesecake with a re hydrated blueberry topping. Omaha made it, took his half and said it was a tasty soup. I was in the middle of my Chili Mac and got to my half about 10 minutes later and realized that while his hadn't set up yet mine, with an extra 5 minutes, had. It was Jello good, which I always liked better then the real thing anyways.
Sitting not to close to a campfire and swapping lies again Omaha proffered going nite flying. I was just wiped out and decided to build a play list on my phone instead, something I could nod off during and not cause too much problems. Must have worked as I noted during one addition that Omaha wasn't there BUT our camp visitor was. We had a raccoon whose job at the park obviously was as Steward to “Tick Cove”. I looked up from my phone and over to the tall grass 10 yards away to see his beady eyes looking at me from just inside the cover. This was about the 3rd time we'd seen just this. We had grown accustomed to listening to him circle the area waiting for us to go to bed. He was NOT the most quite and careful Raccoon I had ever heard. This explained how he got his job as steward to this site. To much a stumble bum to graduate from Raccoon college he had to settle for a career as a civil servant and ended up here.
In all honesty and indifference to the story nature of this trip report. That was ONE NOISY RACCOON!!! Seriously.
When Omaha got back, and truthfully here I noticed when I was putting in the last of my list that he was there, I can't say I remember that he arrived, he was there, he wasn't, he was there again. We talked a bit and noticed during that time that lightening was approaching. We had altered our tarps for more ventilation on this hot night, but quickly policed our grounds and set about tightening everything up for an obvious storm. We had just made our adjustments and I had just set onto my hammock when sprinkles started. I was zipped when I heard the first high speed winds come through the campgrounds sometimes 100 foot tall trees. There was clearance from my tarp to my hammock, but not enough to breath well. With all these gusts I knew the temperature was going to drop and was hopping that one of the breezes would find its way down to us to remove the sweltering conditions. IF I laid exceptionally still, I could keep from sweating. The hardest task. Finally, my back felt cooler and then a breeze did come by and give me the first bit of relief. I was in shorts and had no socks on and almost had taken my shirt off. The winds came, the rain followed and I started remembering the times working on the golf course 25 years ago. One hundred degree days topped off in the last hours by a storm that would come in and drop the temperatures to the 70's in one big gust. Sure, we would usually get wet with rain but if there ever was a natural version of a Nestea commercial this was it. Awwwww, refreshing!
Wha??? That's not right. I'm used to this now, things don't focus well and without my glasses on anything under 3 feet might as well be in Braille. Still this is weird. My ceiling fan isn't working AND it doesn't look right. Not that I'm hot, but, close and rub the eyes a bit. A little moisture will make things better. Open them again and, yea that's not my ceiling fan it's my headlamp. What's that doing there?
And in a rush I realized I was out camping. I had obviously drifted off during the storm and as I always sleep in a hammock waking up in one I could be anywhere, mostly at home, but anywhere. I was in my sleeping bag, my nose was a little cool but I was comfy save having to empty my bladder. It was deftly quite BUT I could hear someone moving. Too quite to be our raccoon I unzipped to find Omaha surveying the damage. One of the last things I did before we fixed our tarps was to put all our food up in a bear bag. Only water, our cook kits and a bag of diaper wipes had been left on the table. The wipes had a hole torn in them, a smallish bite taken out of them and then they were about 10 feet away from the table. I had some pretty gooey fingers when I grabbed a couple out. Cookies, cheesecake and Doritos were stained on underside of the bag the top cleaned off by the storm. Must have smelled delicious but the taste, YUCK!! Our Valet was very upset with his tip. Granted we had several times told him that our trash was in the bins up the hill. Evidently THAT wasn't his area. He had scattered our camp fairly effectively. Bladders relieved it was back to the hammock. I woke hearing Omaha starting the fire. He had gotten a bit wet overnight and needed to dry out. I was snug as a bug and drifted off coming back too as the majority of the wood was dieing down. Several sticks were still there for me and he dumped them on as I walked over. He had been wiping his stuff down and told me that when he had made a trip to the bikes his phone had alerted him to more rain coming. I wiped my tarp off and took stock in my situation as my oatmeal was hydrating. Ate the oats, collected my kit and subsequently broke camp. Omaha's setup didn't go in the bag quite as quick but then I'm an “old pro” having done this routine 3 times more then him. I helped carry the rest of his stuff to the parking lot and we put it all in our trailers and fired the bikes up.
15 miles later we shook hands, Omaha went West and I went East. A mans got to be alone with his thoughts, free to go where the wind may blow him, un bound by another mans rule. I filled up 10 minutes later and texted my wife that I'd be home in 2 hours.
Pointing my bike south and locking the throttle down at the maximum legal speed I headed home at 3/4ths a minute per mile speed. Smiling at every trucker I passed that didn't understand just how hard these notes to Katy's “Firework” song are for a man my age. Yes, MAN. Friday was my birthday. I am now 50 and adjusted to the fact that I've finally, fully matured.
Edit for a couple pics. First of Omaha's setup with my Blackbird and my self in the distance.
Next is under his tarp.