Pocketfuls of Sunshine

The Great Outdoors

Posted on: September 2, 2008

Have you seen this movie? You know, the one with John Candy where he takes his family up north and his brother’s family crashes the vacation. The one with Dan Akroyd who plays a guy named Roman? Awesome.

Well, in it there’s this scene where the men go out fishing. And because they were up late the night before, they fall asleep in the little rowboat. Then it starts to rain and they wake up in a frenzy as each man looks at the other and sees none other than leeches stuck to their faces. The scene ends in a fury of screaming as they realize they are covered in slimy, spooky bloodsuckers.

Well, when I go up north, that’s kind of how I feel. Don’t get me wrong. I like the outdoors, but I like it much more when there are NO BUGS. They are, of course, a vital part of the outdoors and each servers its purpose as they buzz around, landing on anything and everything when their little wings need a rest. And I try to ignore them, I really do. Only it seems as if I am the sole target of these annoying pests. People mill around, wearing nothing other than shorts and T-shirts, accompanied by skin-bearing flip-flops. And for whatever reason, they are blissfully unaware of the mosquitos that manage to transform the one spot on my body that I didn’t cover into an instant dinner plate. So I sit with my jeans, tennis shoes, and hooded sweatshirt on, and I marvel that these pesky winged creatures can find a knuckle or an ear to munch on.

People tend to laugh at me when they see me swatting the air around my head. They often shake their heads and, to be honest, I feel goofy walking around looking like I am fighting with myself as I slap my cheek, hit my leg, or go all out in a fury of fists. However, I manage to have a good time anyway.

This weekend, I had two brushes with nature that were of the more enjoyable variety. My dad and I took a ride. A Harley ride, that is. We took off down the two-track trail that leads to the road from our cabin, and we headed out to see the sights and smell the cow manure flowers. If you have ever been on a bike, you know that the senses are heightened as you pass by fields of hay or under tunnels of trees. You can smell the lilacs that are at the side of the road as if they were right under your nose, and the subtle change in temperature while venturing through a dip in the road is enough to give you a chill as you wait for the sun to shine down on you once again.

So we took off, past the campgrounds filled with people sitting near campfires and through the “downtown” where local restaurants were busier than usual due to the holiday weekend. Once we were on open road, surrounded only by fields and occasional houses and barns, there wasn’t much traffic. That is, until we looked up ahead and saw the common sight of an Amish buggy pulled by a horse on the side of the road. Dad slowed down and prepared to pass, and I wondered what it would be like to be in a buggy on a hot, humid day, puttering down the road while the roar of trucks, cars, and trailers passed quickly. Dad let the bike coast by so as to not startle the horse (those pipes are LOUD!), and I glanced in the plain, black buggy as we passed. I noticed two things.

Long sleeves and a bonnet. It was nearly 90 that day, and I was dressed in a tank top and jeans. And here was a woman sitting in a black oven of a buggy, with no air conditioning and little wind relief, in long heavy blue sleeves. And I would bet she doesn’t complain about it. It is just the way it is.

Then I noticed the horsepower. And I mean literal horse power. Even with the sound of the engine in my ears, I could hear the click, clack, click, clack of the horse’s hooves as we passed. I could see its legs stepping high and proud. And I marveled at the duality of the situation. Here is a world were people, wearing their blue, plain garments, travel by horse with no radio, no phone, and no air conditioning. And here we were, wearing our summer clothes and leather vests with cell phone in pocket, blasting by on a shiny, chrome bike with pipes rumbling with power. It was a sight to behold.

Later, we were climbing a long hill when I felt Dad braking a bit, then suddenly hard. I held on and leaned carefully to the right to peer over his shoulder. There was something on the side of the road. I squinted. There was more than one something. It was a flock of scrawny turkeys. These loony birds decided to cross the road. Three of them made it across as I squealed, hoping we wouldn’t hit one. The rest of the flock assessed the situation and smartly turned back to the shoulder of the road. We sailed through the middle as we were mere feet from the ugly birds.

And then we headed home to share our stories around the campfire. And somewhere in the middle of telling our tale, I managed to forget about the bugs and the swatting and just enjoy the ride I’m on.

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