I have decided to start a new series of post about random things that may not have any specific linkage. These tales are just bits and pieces of life; hopefully they will be amusing.
For the inaugural story, I have decided to relate a tale of exploration…
Between my 8th and 9th grade years (pretty sure of the date based on the person who was with me) a friend and I wanted to have an adventure. We had talked on and off for a couple of years about a river trip from Kansas City down to the Gulf of Mexico (which sounded like a lot of fun and included cutting trees and building our own raft, which we would use to navigating the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, stopping at various cities to resupply on the way … many of you may have guessed we had read Huckleberry Finn at some point).
However, for this particular adventure, we chose something closer to home…
My father knew a family who had a farm about 15 mile from where we lived. It was a decent sized farm and well outside the city. More importantly, they were willing to let us camp out and explore the property. So, the two of us loaded up our backpacks with a heck of a lot of heavy gear, including cans of fruit, beans, and other food, and then mounted our bicycles to head out for the farm. Now for those wondering, these were not special packs, just backpacks for school, so no waist straps and definitely not balanced nor comfortable, especially when we were bent over on our racing 10-speed bikes.
Ready for any challenge, we hit the back streets to avoid traffic, and since I had been driven to the farm once or twice before, I promptly took a turn that lead us 2 miles down the wrong road. Undaunted, we backtracked and continued further out into the country and eventually onto dirt roads that left us covered in dust from passing vehicles.
Once we reached the farm, we did as a couple of teenage boys will: dumped our bikes and headed out into the fields and woods without a word to anyone. The farm covered numerous acres of land that just beckoned to the intrepid explorers that we were (who in all appearances were the only two people left on the planet).
We had rolling fields, empty stream beds, and twisted trees, bent and worn from the abuse of the cows, to investigate. We roamed those hills and woods for hours until we were startled by the discovery of a road that appeared out of nowhere. In a world that was supposed to be devoid of any living soul, we could not understand how the pavement was in such good shape (and why we had inhale dirt when this was nearby).
Running from the sound of mechanized machines, we hid in the undergrowth as people passed by in fast-moving steel boxes completely oblivious to their two watchers. Uncertain of the safety of being seen by people in such strange contraptions, as soon as it was clear, we headed back into the wilderness where we could continue to track the passage of smaller creatures.
When dusk started to take over, we looked for a place to camp for the night. Of course, with all the food we brought, we decided it would be wise to pack light with regard to tent, sleeping bags, or anything else that would offer cover. So as men, we looked for a flat spot with few rocks and slept out in the middle of a field, laying directly on the ground. It was a test of courage. We slept outdoors with no protection from the marauders that were sure to have stalked our movements that day.
That night I made a number of important discoveries:
- The night sky is intensely amazing once you are well outside any city lights. It is ablaze with stars and is truly a wonder to behold. Even more so when there is scarcely any moon in the sky. I highly recommend to everyone that at some point in your life, find a place without light and look up to the vastness beyond our planet.
- Without much of a moon, the night can be rather dark and human eyes are not that great at seeing in low light (we were men and had no need of flashlights and the family who owned the land didn’t want us to light any fires).
- Sleeping directly on the ground is uncomfortable, there are always some rocks you miss (though this was not the last time I did that).
- Even in summer, the ground gets cold at night and shivering keeps you awake.
But due to our cunning, we survived the night and the predawn light woke us easily, though we were not quite as rested as we would have liked. We spent that day as we did the prior, exploring the world that was around us. When we finally ran out of good food to eat (some of the stuff in the cans was not tasty when cold) we headed back to the farmhouse and our bikes. On the way, we decided we would rather not ride home, so we knocked on the door and for the first time in almost two days, made direct contact with another person. A quick call to my dad netted us a ride home in the van and we declared the adventure a complete success.