Road Trip Day 1: Camping Under the Milky Way and the Award for the Most Dysfunctional Bathroom

There is probably nothing more ideal when you are sick than standing naked in hot water. My sinus passages had proudly inflated to their fullest extent, and it seemed likely that my head was now the size of a beach ball. I bent that beach ball forward, until I was looking at the water running down my thighs, and all the pressure of my sinuses moved with it. It is a fun game you can play when you are sick—something I like to call I Forgot I Had Sinuses But Now I Can Feel Them Very Well.


It was the last shower before the big road trip, when camping would likely restrict wonderful hot showers for a few days at a time. The steam seemed to be helping, so I stood there idle, soaking it into my bones, or sinuses, or anywhere willing. I watched a drop of water run off one breast and then sadly take the long hard fall all the way to my foot, while a more cautious drop fell between my breasts, then ran carefully down the length of me. If I was a drop, I would be the cautious one, and I would have enjoyed my slow meandering journey.

A slow meander was precisely what we were planning—a slow meander from North Florida to New Mexico, then a slow curve upward, and a slow meander back. It is one big loop, covering lots of states and lots of different environments. It would be almost a tour of the Southern United States.

I decided I had wasted enough water to be the equivalent of the next two nights I might miss showering. I got out and the beach ball came too, just bouncing around on my shoulders with brown hair glued down to it and dripping the excess.


Morning Came Entirely Too Early

I want to say that the streaks of yellow light bursting out of the clouds piled up on the horizon were really beautiful. I want to say it, but I have such hard feelings toward the terrible earliness of dawn that I won’t elaborate on it. It just doesn’t deserve that much admiration.

The children hunkered down in their seats in the back of the van seemed to agree. They stared bleary eyed out the window, but refused to close their eyes because there was excitement mingled with the misery of being awakened before dawn.

And so we drove, and stopped, and drove some more, while I blew my nose. I blew my nose out past the annoying busyness and curving interstate roads of Jacksonville. I blew my nose out I-10, where the remoteness of the Florida’s panhandle is appealing but pretty uninteresting. I blew my nose some more, all the way out to Southern Georgia and its many speed traps.

Southern Georgia is one of the uglier places on this continent to blow your nose, in my opinion. It lacks anything of interest, except the over-weight police officers in uniform pants that are a tad too tight and brimmed hats bent at the sides in a grouchy manner. If there ever was a real life representative of the donut-eating good-old-boy cop stereotype, I’m pretty sure you can find him on a Southern Georgia highway aiming a radar gun at you.


We escaped Southern Georgia without any flashing red and blue lights and made it to High Falls State Park, near Atlanta, for a short break and addition nose blowing. It seems to me we have touched on something brilliant with this plan. When traveling as a child, we stopped off at yucky chain restaurants and grungy rest stops. My brilliant husband and I have come up with something better—taking a break at one of the hundreds of state parks that dot the interstate all over the country, and wearing the children out with a bit of hiking.

The girl, wearing her characteristic inappropriate clothing for hiking, hurried ahead of me in a polka dot dress and announced that she was now a puppy named Spot. Puppies on hikes do very cute things, like stopping to bat pinecones with their paws, and staring with trepidation at big rocks that the puppy must be coaxed to leap over. Puppies are, overall, excellent hiking companions. After we had seen the “high falls” and both the puppy and the boy were tired, and we had all sufficiently remembered what ground that is not flat feels like, we loaded back up and off we went. And I blew my nose.


Onward Ho

We went through too busy Atlanta, where there are just way too many humans, and through Birmingham, where there are still too many humans. The sun was turning gold and yawning sleepily in the direction of the western horizon when we made it to our first stop for the night: Clear Creek Recreation Area.

The folks at the office were long since gone, but had left our pass taped to their door. I was bouncing around in the seat with an over-inflated head along with a new problem—a bladder stretched out to max. Hurrying my husband along, we made it to the campsite and I bailed out to get to the campground restroom nearby.


Inside the bathroom is where this campsite in Alabama earned the award I’ve titled Southern United States Most Dysfunctional Bathroom. Which is pretty special, considering the multi-state competition which includes bathrooms at vulgar truck stops and one very seedy bar. There were three stalls, and only one still had a toilet in it. Beggars with full bladders can’t be choosers, so the saying goes. Next, I went to the sink and there was a full dispenser of soap, of which I liberally applied to my hands…and discovered that the sink didn’t work. No water. No matter.


My beach ball head and my soapy hands and I walked back to our campsite and found a lovely view of the lake and a husband already pitching the tent. Under the wide spread of some chestnut trees we set up camp while the children tinkered around on the rocks at the edge of the lake.

A friendly man on a golf cart cruised by and spoke in that heavy, beautiful Alabama accent, and I felt a wee bit guilty about playing banjo music in my head when I had been looking at that water-less sink.


At dark I was peeing behind a large chestnut tree (in protest of the bathroom,) while squinting out toward the lake. In the growing darkness it looked as though a two-foot-tall stump was on the ground about twenty feet from me. It was a bit later with a flashlight that I realized the stump had apparently walked off.

All thoughts of walking stumps were forgotten when I brought the kids down to the clearing between our site and the lake. A million stars winked at us and the spilled milk of the Milky Way was clearly outlined in the blackness. The children finally got a good long look at what had been mostly invisible above us for the last two years of our stargazing. I sucked in that Milky Way like my sinuses sucked in that steam.


We went to sleep early that night, all nestled together in our tent like a family of squirrels nuzzled into a nest in the knot of a tree. At one o’clock in the morning the coyotes in close proximity howled to their hearts content. I was the only one in our crew to awaken, and lay there squinting blindly at the stars through the mesh above my head. They howled on for some minutes, and a dog somewhere on the other side of the campground took up a very domesticated version of the howl as well.


I took this opportunity to blow my nose and let out a sigh. Despite the beach ball head, and the hustle and bustle of packing, Day 1 was fabulous. A bit uninteresting, as I reviewed it in my head, but fabulous. The coyotes seemed to agree.

In the AM it would be time to pack up again for a longer stop off in the Arkansas mountains on Day 2...


Beach ball head and nose blowing... that just doesn't sound fun. Couldn't you have waited till it wasn't trip time for that??

Campground bathrooms nearly all lack something to be desired, but sounds like yours was a special.

I did some camping when I was younger. It was ok and a bit of an adventure, but I never grew to love it.

I hope the rest of your trip is grand.

I had an intense, unfriendly conversation with my immune system and the virus about picking a better time to become infected, but neither seemed to care at all about what I thought. Jerks.

I am apparently a Floridian snob, because most state park bathrooms in my home-state are pretty tidy, or in the least entirely function. Truthfully I don't really care. When you go camping you expect to be using the woods, and anything above that is a fringe benefit. Ha.

Camping seems to divide humans into two groups. I know quite a few people that can keep you company in the Don't Enjoy Camping group.

Thank you! We are much farther along than this writing, and it has been excellent so far.

This post was upvoted by the Nature Lovers Community

Thank you.

You're welcome :)

Lol, sorry to hear about the problems. I know how frustrating can be to not have a decent place for the basic needs. However, if you say Day 1 was fabulous, that means the rest overwrites the problems :)

I thought the bathroom was really amusing. I mean, why have the soap filled to the top and ready to go...and then not have a way to wash it off? And all the stalls with missing toilets had their doors unmarked and sitting there invitingly...with big gaping holes in the tile where the toilet belonged. Ha.

I am completely paranoid about my kids catching a stomach bug while traveling, so I am actually quite happy using the woods as my facilities :)

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How dare you make me so jealous with this awesome location and camping trip!

Edit: Oh hang on, let me go and comment as myself...

When I checked out this community I was surprised to see you here. Everywhere I go around here I find you, and I have no complaints :)

Lol, I'm like a rash.

This community was the gun community I started way back when and I rebranded it as people weren't getting the idea and thought it was all about guns. It was never meant to be that though, I wanted it to be an outdoor adventure community where many different topics could be covered, all revolving around the outdoors and all. So I rebranded it and this is the result. It's not well-used but that's ok, I don't mind. It gives me a place to drop my own things.

Thanks for using it though, your content was well-suited and not at all rash-like.

Who knew there were good rashes. I like the idea of your community. I will be back when I have a more outdoors oriented post to drop, which should be a few coming soon.

But Savannah's so nice. That whole bathroom and protesting the bathroom part is hilarious. Like LoL but not just the letters.

Welcome to my favorites. Now don't disappoint!! = }

Savannah is so nice. It is one of my favorite little cities, and I hate most cities. This was far from the niceness of Savannah though, way out in Alabama. I like Alabama too though. The closest small town was cute, and out in the boonies there was this dog that we drove past multiple times that seemed to understand traffic safety. He waited patiently ten feet back from the street for us to pass every time. If there was at least some remote bit of me that had team spirit I'm sure I would appreciate all those fancy cursive capital A's they put on their barns and garages.

I'm honored and I will try to not screw it up ;)

How dare you make me so jealous with this awesome location and camping trip!

Thanks for using my community and I hope you and the rest of the squirrels have a great trip overall. 😉

You will just have to come out and camp with us one of these days. Just a hop, skip, and a jump from Australia. I'm sure you have rugged camping down way better than us.

Thank you, I hope all of it goes fabulously too :)

I'd be more than happy to go squirrel-camping with you! And yeah, Australia to America? Not far at all! Lol.

When I camp I usually go to remote and wilderness places where self-sufficiency is required and I am good at it, but anywhere in the outdoors works and that lake in this posts looks like a legit place to be. 😊

Yes, I like more isolated places too. Most of the places are not on this trip, because they were conveniently located near the highway, so that we do not lose too much time. And several national parks that are kind of must-do. Have a lot to cover in only 2 1/2 weeks. Funny, I was just talking to my sister-in-law, and she was bringing up the most deadly this, and the most deadly that, all in Australia. She was calling it The Death Zone. Lol. You just enjoy camping in your death zone. I will just be out here camping with the mountain lions and bears this week :)

We did see a tarantula just cruising across the path and I was legit freaked out. Mountain lions, okay. Tarantulas, not cool.

Those close-to-highway locations are usually predictable, but they're so convenient and with a limited time available they do a good job.

she was bringing up the most deadly this, and the most deadly that, all in Australia. She was calling it The Death Zone.

Australia is like that, but death-zone camping is what I do and so far death has not come to visit. We don't have mountain lions and bears though...Well, we have koala bears, but they don't often bother us, except for when they want a cuddle.

You can keep all the tarantulas Gin, spiders and G-dog's do not get along well at all.

I do not even know what to say except offer a solution for you...

Why thank you. The beach ball has now deflated, but I will keep it in mind, should I start to feel like a bobble-head again.

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