Around this time last year, Riley announced plans for a road trip with his band. Not a set of gigs or anything. The group was going to pile into a van and drive to North Caroline to see my brother Buddha, stopping along the way to camp.
Five teens load up a van and take a trip into the Deep South. I have seen this movie. It does not end well.
I’m not a camper by nature, nor am I especially comfortable in the south. Or the outdoors, to be honest. I’m not even sure I like vans. Wisely, Riley waited until all other members of the band got their parents’ OK before springing this waiting, bloody disaster on me.
Surely to most people – George, for instance – a summer road trip with buddies seems like the most natural and fun thing to do with some free time. See the world! Bond with friends! Camp! So again, wisely, Riley told us together.
What is it these humans don’t understand? Have they not seen Cabin in the Woods? Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Wrong Turn? The Hills Have Eyes? These films offer the kind of education I believe we should all take into account before planning any adventure.
I wasn’t thrilled.
Lucky for me, Riley would be the handsome leading man, meaning he’d likely survive to tell the tale. I’d hate to be the comic relief sidekick, and God help the underage girls!
They mapped out their destination, got the car tuned up, carried a AAA card for emergencies. All they needed was camping equipment, which my friend Christie kindly supplied. She lent them tents, chairs, a lantern and other recreational whatnot. What she did not provide was the know-how to use the equipment.
Unlike his mother, Riley is not afraid of the woods or strangers or animals or the dark or the south. He would realize, though, that like his mother, he does not care for camping. Terror aside, camping totally blows. You work really hard to provide all you need for a good night’s sleep, only to find that tents don’t suit anyone over 5 foot 5, they leak if you don’t know how to properly set them up, and a sleeping bag on a tent floor over ground is exactly as comfortable as it sounds.
He also learned that getting lost at night on country roads that offer no streetlights, no helpful gas station attendants, and no cell phone reception really is scary – even if there are no inbred cannibals in the vicinity. (Not that you’d know until it was too late!)
Eventually they made it to my brother’s house and spent a day with Buddha and his son in what amounts to my version of a nightmare.
He has several acres about a mile from any road, about 30 miles from any town. There are woods, fields and swamps on his land, which lend themselves to bears, gators, backwoodsmen, and naturally, bugs. I’m not sure how many of those creatures actually infest the property, but my nephew did once hit a bear with his car, so at least we’re sure one manner of carnivore lives there.
Still, Riley and crew had a lovely time in Ivanhoe, North Caroline. They fished, went to the beach, visited a creepy store (like the one in the Chuck Connors flick Tourist Trap, I assume), ate a lovely meal, did not die, and headed back toward Ohio.
They made it home safely – tired and slightly sunburned, but healthy enough. The only casualty turned out to be Riley’s driving record: he got a speeding ticket somewhere around West Virginia.
The one thing I forgot to worry about.