It’s been 20 days since Sheri broke her fibula, which was 20 days of nothing more than hobbling to and from the bathhouse, around the commissary and out to sit in a chair on the fishing pier. Now we’re wearing recyclable grocery bags on our faces. We used to be scared of people wearing masks in a store. Now we’re scared if they’re not.
Shelter in place life wasn’t hateful when there were dozens of miles of roads to bike, trails to hike and tennis balls to chase. Life in Roxie was beyond tolerable with streaming-quality wifi, outdoor shaded patio and a brand new rolling condo with chef’s kitchen. We were even settling into the Air Force routine – rise with Reveille at 7, breakfast and news then active and outdoors til 4pm, when the B52s land over red wine spritzer happy hour on the patio with Retreat and rise for the National Anthem at 5. Dinner and a show, Taps at 9pm, retire at 10pm.
And while all that was tolerable, even pleasant, the broken bone killed our spirit and what we really needed was a change of scenery. Unfortunately, camping in the U S of A is closed. Some people decided that it wasn’t safe to escape to the woods and the rest of us didn’t get to weigh in.
Blocking out the scenery
The gravel and dirt backroads of the Eastern Preserve hide behind a padlocked gate, but you can get the code if you know where to ask or you can drive in when it happens to be open and hopefully get out before its locked again. There are no loops behind the gate, just one long trunk road with crotches, laterals, scaffolds and suckers leading you through a forest of dead ends and turnarounds peppered with oil and gas equipment.
Since riding our bikes down every offshoot of the road tree is a distant intention, Boss took us off-road into a secluded sanctuary called Harmon Lake. Boat ramp, fishing pier, picnic island and primitive campsites!
The sites are picturesque but few. We snagged the one with the best view from the three available. While primitive (no power, water or bathroom facilities) we appreciated the large level cleared tent pad, picnic table, grill and fire ring. The REI Grand Hut 4 tent looked mighty welcoming with the expansive Kingdom Cot 3s decked out with vintage 1960’s Lady Pepperell muslin sheets, from the thrift shop, of course.
Many with nature
Celebrating freedom from trailer park life, we went old school with scrabble on the picnic table, fishing at the bank, steak on a coal fire and s’mores in the dark over wood. The site was a great vantage point for people watching, from dads with kids launching boats to meet-ups with friends for carry-out, fishing and the ever popular pastime – throwing knives at trees.
The sun was setting as a golden eagle soared overhead on the hunt for a fish. With the tent providing a picture-perfect retreat we foolishly thought we had found the ideal place to get away.
Party on the lake
The booming exhaust note of a tricked-out truck cut through the peaceful night air as a group of twenty-somethings descended on the adjacent site for the pre-weekend Thursday night party at Harmon Lake.
The Barksdale airman are here maintaining the B-52 Stratofortress to protect us from who knows what threat. When they need a break from the tension (boredom) they let off steam up at the Lake. We don’t hold it against them; they’re stationed (quarantined) on the same base we are, probably for a good bit longer than us (hopefully). Nevertheless, we are not too keen to join them at any more lake parties.
More cars and trucks arrived until maximum anti-covid 19 social distancing guidelines were reached. A little gasoline on the fire and a lot of volume on the country music pounding through the truck speakers was all that was required to complete the mood.
If you were wondering how loud drunk voices and blaring music carries across a calm lake, we can tell you that 100 hundred yards is still close enough to feel like you are part of the party. We kept that feeling as our fire died down and we retired to the comforts of the tent. Surprisingly, the thin fabric of the Grand Hut did little to attenuate the noise. The party atmosphere ran til almost 5 in the morning, but since paybacks are hell, they got the best of the 70s-80s and 90s blaring from the transistor radio at 6 while we boiled water for the French press and whipped up a southwest scramble.
We heard the country may be reopening in early May. We’ll ride the shelter in place wave til the Survivor: Winners at War finale on May 13th, and, if the National Park Service decides we are not a threat to the squirrels, we’re outta here.