A Taste of Civilization

Me here, checking in from the road. And how can I do that whilst on the 3-week Tent Camping Road Trip from Hell (formerly known as our Fun Family Vacation)? It’s all thanks to Mother Nature, a hotel, and free wi-fi.

Our trip started off well enough. We left the house on time Monday, hitting the road by 11 a.m. as per what we’ve come to call The Plan (which is uttered such that the capital T and P are clearly distinct).

Then we came back.

After getting a spare key for the car — a lessoned learned on last year’s Road Trip from Hell — we left again, happily adhering to The Plan.

Then we came back. Again.

Once we’d picked up the cell phone chargers and the dog’s bark collar, we were finally off… a good hour behind schedule but still on the road.

Three hours and change later we pulled into the Big Sioux Recreation Area in South Dakota early enough to set up camp and begin cooking our first dutch oven dinner before dark. Of course, “dark” doesn’t come there until well after 10 p.m. so we were all famished by the time I finished cooking the cornbread-topped chili, but that just meant everyone was hungry enough to ignore the occasional burnt beans. After cleaning up, we had the perfect family camping evening: S’mores, a roaring fire, good conversation and evening a game of cards before turning in to bed.

Then came the rain.

Hours of it.

And the wind. Sixty mile per hour winds.

The rain fly flew off, the water poured in, both got soaked and the dog just about drowned in her kennel. On our race to the van I glanced at my watch: 5:34 a.m. Lovely. Thank goodness McDonald’s was nearby and getting ready to open. It wasn’t the lovely campfire-cooked breakfast I’d hoped for, but hey, it was warm. Of course, I lost my appetite right around the time the girl behind the counter mentioned that they hadn’t seen more than a half-inch of rain in months. What’re the odds that they’d finally get rain on our first night of camping, eh? (Answer: pretty good, if the last three days are any indication, but I’ll get to that in a bit.)

Luckily, the rain stopped by 9 a.m. and after hot showers (Note: the very nicest showers I’ve seen in a campsite, by the way), dry clothes for all and a couple of hours drying off gear, we were off again. This time, our destination was West Bend Rec Center east of Pierre, South Dakota.

I suppose the muddy ground near our tent should’ve tipped us off that they’d been getting plenty of rain, too, but we arrived so late that nobody really paid the mud much attention. I set about cooking dinner while the Venomous Hubby set up camp, and by midnight we’d eaten, cleaned up and called it a night. Then the rain started again. This time, our rain fly held tight so at least we stayed dry until it was time to pack up… which we did… in the rain.

We headed toward Custer State Park near Custer City, South Dakota with high hopes for an early arrival and dry night. At least we were right on the arrival time: we got everything set up in time for a quick trip to town for a much-needed liquor-store run. Even better: we held off on the libations until I’d nagged VH into rigging a tarp over the screen room surrounding our picnic table and another over our tent. He’d just pulled the last guy-line taut when thunder rumbled and the clouds burst. We stayed nice and dry — although not terribly warm — during all five hours of the storm. By the middle of the night when I had to get up and pee (yet again), the rain had let up and the stars were out in their full glory.

I didn’t sleep much last night. I was too busy looking at the stars. So were both , whom I woke up so they could see what the night sky looks like that far away from city lights. We drank cocoa and roasted marshmallows while our neighboring campers slumbered away, and by dawn when we were all ready to grab a couple more hours of sleep both were finally glad we’d come on this trip.

But even the hardiest of campers (which, it turns out, in our family means ME) has limits. I’m tired, I’m filthy, and I have no dry clean clothes to wear tomorrow on Jasminelive audition. Both of my knees have 1/2-inch wide black bruises across them where the fiberglass tent poles came loose and whacked me during set-up last night. Oh, and thanks to the pitter-patter of rain and last night’s cold weather, my sleeping bag is soaked with my 6-year-old son’s pee (which has taught me that no matter how cold, my he’s staying in his own sleeping bag even if it means he has to wear three days of clothes just to avoid frostbite).

So here I am, in the bee-you-tee-ful city of Billings, Montana where we found a hotel room for the night. The are primed for dinner, hot showers and bedtime. The Venomous Hubby and I are primed for much the same thing… after I finish doing some laundry and we make a quick (?) visit to the bar next door. Ok, so we had to blow off our stay at the Bighorn National Forest to get here, which just goes to show that The Plan is amenable to change (and soft beds, wi-fi access and nearby bars).

But, hey, tomorrow’s weather forecast for Yellowstone is looking lovely. So, after a good night’s sleep (and more hot showers), we’ll be back to The Plan in the morning.

Now, if you’ll pardon me, I believe there’s a barstool awaiting my ass next door. See ya!

As I Lay Dying…

Yesterday, while I simmered in a stew of my own sweat amid bedsheets that reeked of ill health and unwashed feverish body parts, I could’ve sworn I’d somehow stumbled downstairs to the computer, logged in, and posted an entry that fixed the ills of the World Bank, crafted a corruption-free replacement for the U.N., united Democrats and Republicans on the topics of Social Security and tax reform, and established a flawless 1-year plan for the simultaneous creation of a strong Iraqi government and the return of our troops stationed over there.

It was brilliant, I tell you. Absolutely brilliant. The kind of brilliance that strikes, oh, once in a lifetime if we’re lucky and, even then, always seems to strike someone else. I pictured myself graciously accepting the Nobel Prize and pledging to contribute half of the money award to local charities. I saw myself modestly accepting the Republican party’s nomination for President in 2008, and knew precisely how to approve of John Kerry and Hilary Clinton’s decisions to let me run unopposed. I knew just what I would say when, amazed with my insight, the world’s population unanimously clamored for my appointment as Global Ruler For Life. (I even knew which Chanel suit I’d wear with the black boots I planned to borrow from Condi Rice.)

But today? It’s not there. How strange.

Since I still have swollen glands, a sore throat, nasal congestion, a hacking cough that’s threatening to burst blood vessels in my eyes and face, and an intermittent fever, I have every hope of re-creating my brilliant platform and sharing it with you.

Just as soon as I can find my NyQuil….

Sing Yer Guts Out

Anyone who’s been around me past the first drink knows that I adore karaoke. It’s not just because I love to sing (which, I’ve read, stimulates the frontal lobe and is a wonderful stress relief). It’s not even because anything + being away from my desk + drinking + live sex chat = good. It’s because I believe that people ought to take chances expressing themselves creatively, regardless of how good they are.

When I’m listening to karaoke I don’t care how good a person is. I care about how much effort and personality they put into it. How much of themselves have they invested? How hard have they tried??? The more, the better, even if you’re bad. That said, I’ll tell you this: tonight is the first night all season that I’ve enjoyed American Idol.

Oh, please. Don’t tell me you don’t watch it. We’ve already got you sussed. You lie.

For the rest of you who regularly/occasionally/secretively watch Idol, you know what I’m talking about. I wasn’t able to watch last season’s competition due to totally unreliable cable, unrelenting parental demands and crushing depression a variety of factors. But this season I’m addicted, and I’m loving it. It’s amazing to watch wanna-be’s turn into “been there, done that, signed the contract” type of folks. More amazing to me: watching the progress. I love seeing people pursuing their dreams and, most of all, love watching them grow closer to being worthy of them.

But, a couple of thoughts… [Note, I’m as close to “live blogging” as I’ll get, having TiVo’d the show so I could get my son in bed]….

… is it just me, or does the silhouette in the graphics look chunkier post-Reuben?

…wouldn’t Anthony Federov look better with darker hair? At least he’d look a bit less like Clay.

…Constantine/Bo. Constantine/Bo. Hm. Can’t stand sideburns. Prefer talent. One seems like New Coke, while the other seems like “retro” (read: long hair, sideburns, out-dated clothes) is a way of life. Guess which number my fingers dialed?

…Simon. Simon, Simon, Simon. You either love him or hate him. Me? I loooooove him. Grrrrrrr. And his name sounds soooo good when uttered in a post-orgasmic purr. (Don’t ask me how I know. I’m just guessing. Honest.)

And now that my chaturbate screen has faded because I’ve had the show on “pause” for so long, I guess it’s time to head back into it. But first, tell me: if YOU were going to be our next “American Idol", what would you become famous for, and why should we worship you???

So Close, But No Cigar

Last night, I nearly pulled off a coup. Well, maybe not a coup per se, but certainly a feat that — if it had worked out — would’ve been one of the more cool things I’d done in quite some time.

I nearly hopped on a plane to New Orleans, to meet up with my girlfriend Kelley — who I haven’t seen for a year! — and the rest of the blog hooligans meeting in New Orleans tonight. I had a very cheap, last-minute flight lined up. Found a great deal on a hotel room in the French Quarter, too.

Then responsibility set in.

Having taken the Car Vacation From Hell with both last month to see Mt. Rushmore, Deadwood and the Little Town on the Prairie, our credit card balances are now higher than the GDP of certain Third World countries.

On top of that, the Venomous Hubby has two take-home finals to complete this weekend for his MBA. (Just one semester to go, woot!) Since he’s yet to master the art of being able to watch the and do anything else (like flushing the toilet, putting away dirty dishes, or feeding the something not ordered through a speaker), I just didn’t feel right about having fun while he struggled to… well, to do what I do every day.

Had I taken the plunge and gone anyway, I’d be en route to the Big Easy right now rather than typing this. Instead, I’ll have to settle for sitting here in my nightie, sucking down French Market coffee at my desk while planning a “Girl’s Weekend Getaway” in the Big Easy for me and Kelley in October.

Gee, but it’s nice having something to look forward to.

This Bites

Blogging will be light this week as I go through the next phase in my dental ordeal. This week, they’re replacing the “flippers” with temporary bridges.

I’ve been saying for weeks that I couldn’t wait to be free of the discomfort and awkwardness of the partial denture-like flippers, but this morning when they put the upper temporary bridge in, it looked so awful that I practically begged to have the flipper back! Tomorrow they’re putting in the lower bridge — and I’m praying that it looks better than the upper one does.

The dentist has assured me that since these are only temporary, they won’t look nearly as good as the permanent ones since the temporaries are made of acrylic whereas the permanents are porcelain and thus both more translucent and natural-looking. They’d have to be better looking — right now, my teeth look about as real as the vampire teeth wear for Halloween.

Tomorrow when I climb back into the dentist’s chair, it’s going to take quite a bit not to break into tears. I’m going to have to ask him to reduce the crowns on the canines — they’re almost as big as the two front teeth, and so square-fronted that the entire bridge looks like a row of Chiclets.

If it weren’t for what he prescribed (and which I’m about to chase with a very dry martini), I’d be ready to kill right about now.

Hopefully by Wednesday, I’ll have better news — and maybe even “Halfway There” photos — to share with you