Our budget is based on tent camping, with a sprinkle of cheap motels for the internet. After three dead ends in search of a campground open past 7pm, we give up and park Horatio at a Comfort Inn in Ferdinand, Indiana. I bargain $20 off the price with bleary-eyed, weary persistence. The hotel is exactly on the cusp of the Eastern and Central time zones; the receptionist explains that our phones may flicker back and forth from one time to the other. The breakfast is unusually good for complimentary service – fresh bacon and waffles! I wake up with tons of energy, feeling like I’m gaining ground on this cold I’ve picked up.
This time we call ahead to a KOA campground in Springfield, Missouri and reserve a tent spot. It’s beautiful as we drive through St Louis, and well into Missouri. However, as we get close to Springfield, it starts to rain.
“Uh oh,” Sal says.
“Maybe it will stop soon,” I say, looking with a sinking feeling at the pile of stubborn clouds to the south. We pull into a truck stop and eat burgers and country fried steak, trying to stay cheerful.
“Our tent is right next to the highway,” I note as we pull up to our campsite.
“Maybe the rain will drown out the noise,” Sal says, pulling on a jacket to set up the tent.
Inside the tiny tent, huddled with all four limbs inside the sleeping bag, I’m covered in three layers of clothing and a winter hat, shivering and sneezing. Sal’s outside pulling on ropes and jamming in pegs into the hard, cold ground with record speed.
“Um, Sal?” I call to him, “I think the tent is leaking.”
Sal pokes his wet head in and inspects the inside walls. “I’ll have to pull the tarp from underneath and throw it over the tent.”
This undoes all his work, and it’s another 15 minutes or so of cold and rain before he shuffles inside.
I hand him a cup of wine. We can’t face each other without pressing our backs to the damp sides of the tent, so we stare at the tent walls and sip in chilly silence.
The rain beats a challenge on the tarp. A truck roars by, to our backs.
“Well, goodnight,” Sal rolls over and I hear a zipping sound in the dark.
Suddenly, there’s a deep rumble and blast of a whistle.
“Is that – a train?”
Sal doesn’t answer. He’s asleep, or comatose with misery. I toss and turn all night and wake up with the cold returned with a vengeance. I eat cold cereal standing up while Sal packs the wet tent as fast as his frozen hands will let him.
The only good thing about our stop in Springfield is the Bass Pro Shops. It has to be seen to be believed.
I think I would have appreciated it more with a hot shower and use of my fingers.