Have you ever tried to pitch a tent in the dark in a gale force wind? That’s what Rebecca and I did on the second night of our UK road trip.
“Park the car between the cliff and the tent site to block the wind,” I yelled helpfully.
“But the tent is bigger than the car!” Rebbeca pointed out. There was a lot of flapping and flopping and “f—ing!” and hysterical laughing before it was done.
Here is Rebecca blowing up her “lilo,” which is what Brits call an air mattress. She is purposely not looking at me, or she would burst out laughing and end up sleeping on the hard ground.
We got things pretty well organized, then settled down to sleep. Our bodies were the only thing weighing the tent down. We lay there in the dimness watching the top billowing wildly.
In the morning, we crawled bleary eyed out of the tent to scenes like this:
That’s the wonderful thing about seaside weather; it can change within hours. Rebecca made some coffee and porridge on the cook stove with the meths. I still couldn’t get over that that’s what they called camping fuel.
Then it was off on a hike:
If you live in a place with four distinct seasons, like Minnesota with its harsh grey winters, you appreciate the pure bliss of a spring hike. I do believe that our bodies are attuned to the seasons and nature in general, although that connection is blunted by indoor lighting, artificial schedules, and screens, screens, screens. But if you get outside on a spring day and start paying attention to the colors of the sea and the tiny blossoms and the sounds of larks that you can’t even see because they fly so high, very quickly you feel alive—alive, and free, and joyous.
We hiked for hours and said barely a word to one another; it wasn’t necessary. Then we headed into St. David’s via narrow, hedgerow-bordered roads and farm fields.
We learned we would have to return the next day to tour the cathedral, so we wandered around and ended up in the pub, which fortuitously had a pub quiz that evening. We were enjoying our fish and chips with mushy peas and a pint of ale when a crusty farmer sidled up to us and began making marriage proposals. “I’m a millionaire farmer,” he declared. “Ye could do worse.” We laughed at first, until we started wondering if he was serious because he was so persistent. Thankfully the quiz started and he went back to join his crusty friends.
Now, Rebecca and I had been to many pub quizzes in Oxford, where the typical question was, “In which scene of Hamlet does Polonius offer Laertes a string of aphoristic clichés enumerating the shoulds and shouldn’ts of a young man’s life?”
This wasn’t Oxford. The first question was, “What common household items did McGiver use to escape from a drug lord in Season 3? Was it: a fork and spoon, a pen and paper, or chopsticks and a cigarette lighter?” The rest of the questions were based on other great American TV series like the Dukes of Hazzard and The A-Team.
Rebecca and I looked at each other and tee-heed. We weren’t going to win this quiz, but this was much more entertaining than playing cards in the tent. We had had a few pints when Rebecca raised her hand. I can’t recall what cheeky question she asked of the quiz master, because as soon as she opened her mouth the whole pub turned and stared.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
“Ahx-fohrd-shaw,” she replied (Oxfordshire), intentionally overdoing the posh Oxford accent. They all laughed, we laughed, and the questions about McGiver went on for hours.
If you ever go for a walk in the country, be sure to bring a flashlight in case you end up walking back to your tent much, much later, in the dark, on unlit country roads after having maybe one too many pints.
Fortunately, Rebecca and I had packed our headlamps, so we had loads of fun impersonating the daleks from Dr. Who:
“You shall be exterminated!”