Seeking: a group to traverse the wilderness of West Virginia. Said group will sleep in a rustic cabin, start their own fires, cook over those open fires, tube down the rapids where the Potomac River meets the Shenandoah.
Doesn’t sound like me, does it?
That’s because it’s not but add in air conditioning, a heated swimming pool, lots of beer, wine and champagne, bathrooms with private shower stalls and lots of friends & laughter and it changes the possibilities considerably. I mean, add in a cashmere cardigan and khakis and it almost sounds like a scene out of a Tom Ford cinematic extravaganza.
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The stage of John Brown’s Raid, the beginnings of the NAACP’s Niagara movement, numerous river floodings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and home of the annual Labor Day Kamping trip…started by my very own, Jeremiah Feather.
This year’s trip was almost not meant to be. We had planned for a weekend in Provincetown, MA with friends. Several days of sun and fun with copious amounts of alcohol. Honestly, not at all different from the weekend we had. Luckily, alcohol tastes good no matter where you chill it! Amen to that!!!
Start your engines! NYC to Washington, DC!
DISCLOSURE! I will be modifying the names of the drunks for legal purposes…except for my own and Jeremiah’s…
As with any trip planned by a gay man, we MAY have overpacked…three cars, eight people and enough food, drink and clothes for 16 campers and four cars. Still, we make it work…that’s what the gays do.
NEXT STOP, HARPERS FERRY, WV…well, not exactly. First a stop at Costco. Now, HARPERS FERRY! Well, not just yet. What could make a road trip better for me? A stop in Leesburg, VA where some substantial Civil War battle must’ve been fought but for me, it’s the home of ” The Leesburg Premium Outlet Shops”. A little pre-Kamp retail therapy at Williams-Sonoma, Burberry, J Crew and Barneys. Yes, BARNEYS!!! Ah sweet mystery of life! You may call it any other group of outlet stores but I call it kismet. I mean, not two days earlier, I saw a gentleman on my flight to NC wearing the Adam Kimmel for Carhartt navy blazer and knew I needed to purchase this jacket. $410 dollars online. I mentioned it to Jeremiah and wouldn’t ya know that we walked into “Mecca off Madison” aka the Barney’s outlet and there it was…for $150 schmackaroos! Kismet!
(Two hours laters after also spotting the dreaded Chick-fil-a and opting for quiznos instead…blank stare…we, Jeremiah, me, “Tanya” and her ciggies, are on our way!)
NEXT STOP, HARPERS FERRY!!!
Living in NYC or any big city, for that matter, you forget how beautiful the sight of rolling hills and open expanses of land can be. Hills and valleys. Mountains and streams. From sea to shining sea.
Around 4pm on Friday afternoon, Jeremiah, “Tanya” and I roll up at the KOA Kamp ground. Kamp…KOA…Kamp! Get it!?
Anyway, we pull into the Kamp ground to be stopped by the older woman at the gate. On her office window is “Betty and Ann”. We were lucky enough to encounter Betty, who was a very sweet woman who motioned us on to the main office to pick up our keys etc. And so we arrive at the main office. As I look out the front window of the car, two couples are exiting the building…two women and their shirtless, tanned and hairy husbands carrying 40s and smoking cigarettes. Yes, it’s gonna be that weekend. So I exit the car to sit in a huge rocking chair and have “Tanya” take a picture of me in front of the KOA sign. We then went inside to meet Jeremiah who was in the process of getting our Kabin assignment. “Tanya” and I, being the people we are, went in search of trinkets and what else, beer. We found it and some delicious malt drinks. As we go to pay, the very friendly desk person, David, tells us that we can order ice or whatever we need and they will bring it to our Kabin…he also tells us how delicious the Jack Daniel’s watermelon malt drinks are and smile real big at me…David was gay. Incidental but expository, nonetheless.
Have keys…now on to our Kabin. K214. Did I mention we were staying in a two story Kabin with an electric fire place, carport and air conditioning? Jed Clampett would’ve pissed his pants for this kind of luxury at the KOA. “Hills that is…swimming pools”, broadway stars.
And now we begin the unpacking process. Blankets, pillows, clothes, food, ice chests…OOH! The 15 bundles of fire wood arrive! Yes, I said 15. More unpacking. Outdoor chairs, table cloths etc… We were just about unpacked when “Mark and Jacob”, the newly titled “boyfriends”, arrive. More unpacking! More ice chests, much more beer, makings for s’mores, more chairs, pillows and bedding. ICE! We needed ice because the fridge is now full. So “Tanya” and I make our way up for visit David who immediately asked us if we liked the malt drinks…we did. So we buy five bags of ice and carry three with us. The other two will be delivered. We didn’t wanna look too “big city” by having them all delivered. We are capable people after all. We go back to our Kampsite and make the place look livable then it’s off to Friday night dinner…Long John Silver’s!!!
You can all pretend how health conscious you are and how you’d NEVER eat at a place like that, where the food is all fried in the same grease. Mmm, the deep fryer. I have to admit that Jeremiah and I were having chicken strips and fish, respectively and neither realized we were eating the other’s food until half way through. And don’t forget the crispies…and the cheese curd balls…and the mild indigestion that I’d gladly have again with a little malt vinegar!
And just when you thought the evening was winding down, The Charles Town Races ( doo dah, doo dah) was next up! This trip was shaping up nicely, if you asked me. We went to check out the second…ok third tier horses that were racing that evening. I picked horse #4 because it strutted like it was wearing high heels which I thought would make it a good runner. I was wrong. Last place Elmer, the glue horse, lost me five dollars! So I went inside to the casino. Yes, the home of old ladies and their cigarettes and oxygen tanks. Oxygen and fire….these broads have no fear and lots of pennies.
I try my hand against the slots, something I haven’t done since the night Chita Rivera told me to drink coffee after a drunken slot machining fiasco. Five more dollars gone. It was time to hit the KOA for the night.
When we got back to Kabin K214, the final three campers had arrived…”Chase”, “Tripp” and “Craig” with even more food, pillows, drink and another coffee maker! Because gay men and their lean friend and mascot for the weekend need choices. Not only did they bring more alcohol…they brought champagne and two blocks, not boxes (there is a difference) of wine. Wonders of the world! And “Tanya”, by this point, was in her weekend costume that she purchased at Walmart just for the occasion.
What happens when one man drinks five bottles of champagne? He throws up beside the Kabin and covers it with rocks. Ladies and gentleman, I give you “Craig”.
It’s only the first night. THE FIRST NIGHT!
The next day at the crack of dawn, or 8am as I call it, morning breaks, we wake, we pee, we wait for coffee and breakfast. Eggs and turkey bacon, courtesy of Jeremiah, who also made the fire…my mountain man. Back to the turkey bacon, you all know I’m a purest in many ways…I like sugar, not substitutes, whole milk not that soy crap and I like bacon as it was planned…from a pig! If I say any more, it’ll just get ugly.
Today’s excursion…BTI aka Butts Tubes, yes, you read correctly.
What camping adventure is complete without an afternoon of relaxing in tubes, floating down a lazy river with two ice chests filled with beer?! We had beer, food for lunch and blueberry fritter holes because why not and three additions to the days trip, the very friendly “Mitch” who I’d met in Miami in February and two of his friends, Ricardo and Leandro. Those are their real names and fuck ‘em…they can’t read. No, I mean it. Ricardo has a tattoo on his side which reads, “Remeber”… Yes, he has a misspelled word on his torso because neither he nor the tattoo artist recognized the mistake. I mean, really!
So after three hours on the river, after me losing three beers to the lady of the lake, after “Tanya” losing a flip flop and finding one, unfortunately the same foot, after losing THREE PAIRS of sunglasses, after spotting a way too young kid with a way too hot body, which we stopped to look at briefly until we realized he was a youth of maybe 17, we made our way out of e river and back to the bus that would take us back to our skewed reality. “Mitch” and his two muchacos fled the scene like someone had called the INS and we all headed back to our little home away from home for an evening by the fire. Someone should’ve told us that the local band, “Freak Show” would be sound checking at 5pm and playing NONSTOP from 6pm until 10pm. Four long hours of this…man who looked scarily like Eddy from AbFab meets Stevie Nicks. So as we listened to the screams of the band and the mildly drunken crowd, we sat by the fire and popped jiffy pop. For the record, in order to pop popcorn over an open fire, you must have some rhythm, the same rhythm one usually reserves for more personal moments…it was highly sensual. So we ate, drank and fell asleep.
Good night KOA, good night our tea party neighbors, good night obese 8yr old boy who could barely walk without hyperventilating…good night.
Sunday! It’s rainy and the fire won’t start…it took us almost three hours to go from smoke to fire…Smokey the bear would have had quite a Kiki watching this. I’ve literally blocked out any events that happened during most of this day. I only “remeber” hours sitting in the rain by the fire before we journeyed over the Harpers Ferry to tour the towns several historic buildings. It really was a lovely experience. We forget how the landscape of a town and it’s people can change over a century. Anyway, after dinner in town, we found ourselves back by the fire, drinking, drinking, drinking and laughing cuz that’s what friends do. Good times!
Good night KOA, good night our tea party neighbors, good night friends, good night obese 8yr old boy who could barely walk without hyperventilating…good night!
Monday morning at the crack of dawn…8am, it’s Labor Day!
Start packing up. As at the end of every trip with friends, it seems that the race was on to get packed, figure out what belonged to whom and get our asses back home before the vortex closed up for good. So, after packing and unpacking and replacing vehicles and figuring out who was riding with whom and what we were throwing away…don’t worry, the beer was saved! Cue the angels voices.
So we hug, kiss and laugh a few more times before everyone piles into three cars and set their sights on next year’s trip…anybody got a portable DirectTV satellite?