The moment I turned 33, all hell broke loose. But I’m starting to realize that demons are much better loose than restrained- or maybe I’m just getting to old to hold it all in.
I celebrated my Patrick Ewing birthday
…with an epic road trip full of trail running, beer and quality time with my new best friend.
That’s right, I adopted a dog! One of the reasons I haven’t updated my blog in a while is because this bundle of joy arrived in my life, and we’re still trying to figure each other out. This is Bruce [The Boss]. Bruce enjoys fine art, ballet, tearing through the woods with reckless abandon, lounging on his day bed and poop.
As per usual, I totally failed to make any kind of plans for my birthday until the evening before, when I decided I’d drive up to Washington to see Phish at the Gorge. Seeing them there a few years ago was one of my favorite concerts, and I was hell bent on trying to make it happen again.
Washington is a long drive away, so I knew I’d have to plan strategically. I decided to leave early Friday morning and head straight up to the Yakima canyon, where I would camp at Umtanum, a spot I used to frequent back when I was farming up in Royal City.
There’s a 50K race here that I want to run someday, so I figured I’d go check out the course and see how I felt about it.
Well… I felt so fucking good about it, I scrapped my plans for Phish in favor of pursuing even more northwest trail running adventures.
And just like that, a new dirtbag runner was born.
(There was also some seriously awkward campground debauchery, but I’ll get to that later.)
It took over eight hours of driving, not counting the breaks I took to eat, pee and splash in the Deschutes River, to get from Dunsmuir to the Yakima Canyon. Eight hours of driving to get from one canyon with a river and railroad tracks to another. I guess I know what I like.
Driving all the way through Oregon in one go is excruciating. I thought it would never end. I truly believed I would spend eternity in the high desert purgatory that occupies the northeast corner of my neighboring state.
By the time I arrived at the Columbia River, I was about to blow my top. Literally. It was so damn windy, the cap on my truck was starting to shake loose. I was feeling surly AF, and had to pee like nobody’s business. So when I finally got to a gas station, (God bless Oregon for cheap diesel) I ended up shoving innocent women and children out of my way to get to the ladies room.
I am such a lady.
It was here that I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and wished I had my phone to take a birthday portrait. I was wearing my favorite ragged Bouncing Souls tour shirt, cutoff shorts and the filthy yellow trucker hat I only ever wear on trails anymore because it’s covered in grease from my truck. And the closest thing to red lipstick that I own. Don’t ask- it’s just a phase I’m going through.
Anyway- I remember looking at my reflection and realizing that, in the course of 33 years, I’ve become exactly what I always wanted to be.
Once I got outside and caught a glimpse of Washington State, my mood lifted. I knew I missed that place, but wasn’t quite prepared for the wave of raw desire that ran through me as I stood on the other side of the river, drooling over the rocky ridges and rows of towering wind turbines.
Squinting, I pushed my face into the wind and fantasized about rolling in the red Washington dust. I probably spend too much time with my dog…
I think it took another couple of hours to get to the Umtanum Campground, but I was too busy taking in the scenery and rocking out to M.I.A., The Crystal Method and Midnight Oil to pay attention.
Since this trip was entirely unplanned and completely spontaneous, I had no campground reservations. Of course, all the campgrounds along the canyon were full.
Of course. It was a Friday night in the middle of summer and everybody in Washington was floating the river.
But when I pulled into Umtanum, I noticed a vacant campsite. It had a reservation tag on it, but no one was there.
It was near 8 by that time, and I was tired, hungry and not thrilled with the thought of seeking out a place to sleep. I figured I might try to stay there, and see if anyone showed up.
But I didn’t need to worry about that, because a friendly dude from a neighboring site walked over and asked me if I wanted the site. He explained that he had reserved a few different spots for a big family trip. The one I was parked in was supposed to be occupied by his cousin, who couldn’t make it because of school.
Gushing with gratitude and relief, I happily paid the guy for the site. We chatted a bit and introduced ourselves. His name was Cameron.
He invited me to pop over to his campsite and say hello to his crew once I got settled. I glanced over and saw a large Mexican dude setting up a grill and a gaggle of children running amok.
Not necessarily a scene I wanted to walk into, but I figured I should muster up some manners seeing as how these people made my night so much better by subletting their campsite.
As I was setting Bruce up with some dinner, Cameron walked over again. He had a beer for me and was trailed by three or four hyper young kids.
We chatted a bit while Bruce took delight in the attention of tiny humans with energy to match his own. He loves kids, I’m learning.
Anyway, it was obvious this dude was totally into me. In addition to repeatedly inviting me over to his campsite, he was trying to convince me to come float with them the next day.
I had no intention of hooking up with anybody that weekend, but I was definitely feeling lonely, and this dude was pretty damn cute in a classic Northwesty kind of way.
So I flirted right back.
But nothing sinks a boner more than dysfunctional family drama…
Cameron popped over at least one more time after that, again asking me to come hang out. I was tired of having my space invaded, so I finally obliged.
And this is where things get trippy…
I walked up to their campsite with Bruce and some beer tucked into my Crazy Creek. In addition to about half a dozen children, I saw a heavy-set couple at the picnic table that must have been their parents, and Cameron helping another Mexican woman try to squeeze an air mattress into a tent that was far too small for it.
Really loud salsa music, wine coolers (I shit you not- they were drinking wine coolers) and garbage everywhere.
I was kind of greeted and introduced to everybody. When Cameron introduced me to Michelle, the woman he’d been helping with the tent, she immediately turned her back on me.
At this point, I was fairly certain Cameron was somehow involved with this woman. Why else would she act so cold? Not gonna lie- when women feel threatened and treat me this way, I get this primal urge to vie for their man’s attention even more. I’m a competitive alpha female, sorry in advance.
I skirted the unwelcome vibes by focusing on my dog and the little hellions running around. One of the little boys was particularly chatty and very excited to show me his new R2D2 camp chair.
“Explain these children to me,” I told Cameron. I didn’t want their names- I wanted to know where they came from… Biologically.
I heard a few of them call him, “Uncle Cameron,” but now I was starting to wonder.
Most of them belonged to Alma and Tony, “…and then Marky is mine and Michelle’s.”
Oh. Cool! So this cute little guy I’ve been hangin out with is the spawn of the woman who wants to stab me, and this douchebag who’s trying to get with me RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIS FAMILY.
Suddenly, I understood Michelle’s discomfort with my presence. My tired brain spun into overdrive working on the best way to exit the entire scenario.
Failing a better plan, I started chugging my beer. I figured an empty can would give me a convenient excuse to head out.
Luckily, I didn’t need to think too hard. Alma called out to me from across the campsite, ”Hey Lauren, are you a jealous woman?”
“Damn right I am.” I knew exactly where this question was coming from and where it would lead.
“See,” Alma and Michelle both yelled at Cameron, “it’s not just a Hispanic thing!”
Holy shit. A Hispanic thing? Was this dude seriously trying to blame his idiocy on someone else’s ethnicity?
Speechless, I just blinked hard and tried to find solace in my can of cheap beer.
Cameron seemed to think this all was hilarious. I was relived at the broken tension and made it clear I was on the ladies’ side here.
“Okay, so this is my girlfriend,” Cameron said, putting his arm around Michelle.
“I am NOT your girlfriend,” she shot back.
“Okay, well she’s not exactly…”
“Is she your wife?” I asked. The truth was, I didn’t care what their label was. They had a kid together and were clearly on good enough terms to go on a family vacation. I wanted nothing more than to GTFO.
“Yes!” he said. “This is my wife, and this is my sister.”
“Okay, well, I’m Lauren and I need to go now,” I said. “This is really awkward.”
The ladies apologized profusely and made sure I was aware that they had no problems with me whatsoever. I figured.
“By the way,” Michelle said, looking me in the eye for the first time as I walked past, “I am NOT his wife, and she is NOT his sister.”
Fair enough. I wouldn’t want anything to do with this buttface, either.
I thanked them for the grilled corn and sauntered back to my campsite, relieved at my freedom to walk away from that situation and ready to get too stoned to care about the whole thing.
But I was stalked.
“Do you want to go for a hike?” Cameron popped up behind me.
This dude wasn’t stupid. He was evil.
I stood there, holding my giant guard dog with one hand, and told him: I am not about to mess with another woman’s man.
[This is one of the only hard and fast rules I consistently adhere to. The other is to never send an angry email. I highly recommend everyone do the same for a happier life.]
Bruce and I went for a stoney stroll down the railroad tracks, only to return to our site to find a new group of people that rolled up looking for a place to camp.
Sympathizing with their situation, I agreed to let them share the spot as long as they kicked me some money.
They were so stoked to have a place to stay, they covered everything I paid Cameron and then some. I was equally stoked to have happy campers nearby.
But they were planning to stay the whole weekend, and I needed to leave the next day to catch Phish. I decided to try to turn my truck around to prepare for a quick exit.
Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like the roar of a massive diesel truck to make you realize you’re way too fucked up to drive.
I decided to just pull my truck up a few feet more to make extra room for the site-mates and worry about how I was going to get out of there the next day.
I didn’t even get that far before someone started yanking at my passenger door. You know who it was.
“What, you want to go for a ride in Daisy?” I probably shouldn’t have said this. It sounded like an invitation. Whatever. Beer.
“Are you okay?” he asked, climbing in and shutting the door. “My girls didn’t scare you, did they? They’re so Hispanic.”
I couldn’t handle it. I cracked up. The whole thing was way too ridiculous, sad and disturbing.
“Dude… I would be furious, too,” I said. “Especially right now. This is DEFINITELY not okay.”
“What would it take to make you totally lose it?” he asked, continuing to defend his obvious attempts to get in my pants.
My mind flashed back six months, when I punched my then-boyfriend in the mouth… for no reason at all.
“Oh, trust me, you are way beyond that point already. You should get out of here.”
But he didn’t listen.
“I can’t even touch you from here,” he said. “There’s this huge basket between us.”
It was true. He and I never made physical contact, except to shake hands upon introduction. He hadn’t even said anything directly suggestive or offensive. Honestly, he really was just acting overly friendly.
But still, no me gusta.
“What would happen if…” I noticed his arm was snaking over the basket. Things seemed to move in slow motion as I prepared for attack, wondering if I had space to gnash at the creeping appendage with my teeth, or if I had to settle for smacking it away.
Once again, I didn’t have to think too hard. Just in the nick of time, the moment was diffused by fists pounding on my truck and bright lights shining in my face.
Las hermanas to the rescue again!
“You are so dead,” I croaked with a grin.
There must have been relief, or possibly delight at the pending punishment of this asshole, written all over my face, because as soon as Michelle met my eye, her bloodthirsty look of madness quickly melted into embarrassment.
I sat back, mildly amused as the sisters flipped out at Cameron in a very Jerry Springer-like scene.
“I’m sorry,” Michelle said to me, “he’s drunk.”
At that point, I recall Cameron getting pulled out of my truck by the ears, although that probably didn’t actually happen in real life.
“No, I’m sorry!” I quickly responded. I’m sorry this loser knocked you up five or six years ago and now you probably feel stuck with him. I kept that last part to myself.
Yeah, it was awkward and kind of uncomfortable, but I was completely unharmed by the whole scenario. It turned into a moderately entertaining story for me to write, and I still went on to enjoy epic adventures all weekend.
This story will be continued…
Freelance writer. Trail runner. Relentless savage.