• 25 July - Friday - Smalton
We were up at dawn for a quick breakfast. Then Aunt Sarah, Nan and I made a pile of sandwiches for lunch, packed the ice chest with supplies for dinner and breakfast, put loaves of bread and bags of chips in a cardboard box, and filled the water cooler with water and lots of ice. We put all this and other last-minute items in the wagon and were ready to hit the road.
Sean and Uncle Patrick took a last look at the road atlas, agreeing on the route and where we would stop. Sean handed the atlas to me, saying, "You're my navigator, Lisa. Once we get past St. Louis we'll stop and can change drivers if you want."
"I'm very out of practice, Sean, so I'd prefer you do the driving. Though once we have time, I'd like to relearn my driving and shifting skills."
"Good idea. Maybe we can get in some practice for you in Ann Arbor, and you can do some of the driving on our return trip."
"That's a relief," whispered Anna. "I can only imagine what this trip would be like with Lisa driving!"
With five of us talking, the miles went by quickly. Once we were past the confusion of St. Louis, and before we hit the confusion of Dayton, we pulled into a rest stop to stretch our legs and eat our lunch.
I thought about suggesting we call Sarah and Patrick, then realized how ridiculous that would be in this time. They wouldn't be expecting to hear from us until evening, and I didn't even know if they were home. Answering machines wouldn't be affordable for home use for another ten years.
Sean and I looked at the map, calculating that we should reach the area where we wanted to camp about 3:00 p.m.
"No, make that 4:00 p.m.," said Sean. "We're about to change time zones, so set your watches ahead an hour.
"That's early enough we should have no trouble finding a camping spot, even though it's Friday," said Sean. "I think what makes sense is for me to drop you all off to claim the site and set up the tent, then I'll drive back to the nearest gas station to fill the tank for tomorrow and call Dad."
"We're also stopping for gas soon, aren't we?" asked Nan.
"Yeah, the last sign said there was gas in about thirty miles. Might as well do it then, before things start building up around Dayton."
"Okay. We should buy a bag of ice and drain and refill the ice chest there."
— ∴ —
Around 3:30 p.m. we began seeing signs for camp grounds. "State park or KOA?" asked Sean.
"We don't need the facilities at a KOA," I said. "The state park is likely to be quieter."
"Makes sense," agreed Sean.
We passed the KOA then followed the signs to the state park and its campground, which was a ways off the highway. After picking a spot, we unloaded the tent, sleeping bags, folding stools, water cooler and guitar, then Sean drove back to the highway to gas up and call Sarah and Patrick.
"Sure is quiet here," said Anna.
"We're away from the highway. It's nice. There aren't as many people and cars now as there will be. The population in 1970 is about 200 million; in fifty years it will be well over 300 million; double what it was when I was born. We should have a spectacular view of the stars tonight, too."
Maggie had been walking around the site, thinking about where to pitch the tent. "Let's put the tent here," she finally said. "It's level and close to where the car will be parked."
We set to work under Nan's direction, and had almost finished with the tent when the park ranger drove up and stopped to collect the camping fee.
"Just you four ladies?" he said, looking us over a bit too closely in my opinion. "Need help with that tent?"
"No, thank you," said Maggie picking up a stout branch from the pile by the fire pit and casually snapping it. She tossed one half to Anna, who deftly caught it and stepped close to Nan. Maggie moved to stand by me.
"My older brother took the car to gas up and call our parents," said Nan. "He'll be back in a few minutes."
"How long you all camping?"
"Just tonight. We're off to stay with my uncle in Ann Arbor, while my brother checks out the college he'll be attending this fall. We'll leave as soon as we eat breakfast tomorrow."
"That's all right, then," said the ranger, writing a few lines in his notebook. He handed me a pamphlet. "There's a short scenic trail if you feel up to hiking after pitching the tent. I'll swing by later to make note of your license plate." He climbed back into his pickup and drove off.
"Was that normal?" frowned Maggie.
"'Fraid so," I said. "No telling what trouble four loose females might cause for the patriarchy."
"Stupid jerk," said Nan. "Well, let's finish up. Sean really should be back soon."
We were siting next to the tent, singing Rhymes & Reasons, when Sean returned.
"Sorry I took so long," he said. "The gas station sold ice, so I drained and refilled the ice chest and saved the rest of the bag for the water cooler. I see you have things well under control here."
"Of course," said Nan, taking the ice bag from Sean.
"There's a hiking trail," I said. "A ranger stopped by and gave us a map."
"A hike sounds like a good idea after a day of sitting in the car. Everyone up for it?"
"Can Anna and I just stay here," said Nan.
"No, you may not," Maggie and I chorused.
"I agree," said Sean. "We all stay together. If the trail turns out to be too hard, we'll all turn back. But we still have a good four hours of sunlight and I don't just want to sit around that long. Put the guitar in the wagon and I'll lock the doors.
— ∴ —
After walking for a couple of hours we had returned to our campsite, washed up, then fixed sandwiches to go with the potato salad and coleslaw. We sliced up a cherry pie for desert.
After cleaning up Sean and I took turns on guitar and sang a few songs. As soon as the sun began to set we rearranged things in the station wagon so the back seat could be folded down and got ready for sleep.
"Okay you two," said Sean, as Anna and Nan settled themselves in the car, "you have a flashlight if you need it. Keep the doors locked."
"And try to get some sleep," I said. "Sunrise is about 6:00 a.m., which means it will be getting light before 5:00 a.m. There's less than seven hours of darkness this time of year."
Anna and Nan pointedly ignored us, so we retired to the tent with Maggie.
"I'll stay outside while you two get ready to sleep," said Sean. "I'm only going to take off by shoes and socks, so let me know when you're ready."
Maggie and I made short work of preparing for sleep, as we also kept most of our clothes on. "You want me to sleep in the middle," whispered Maggie, "to protect your virginity?"
"Not necessary. I suppose I am technically a virgin again, but Sean is still freaked out by me. Nothing is going to happen."
"Okay, Sean, we're done," I said once we were in our sleeping bags.
Sean came in, zipped up the tent, took off his shoes and socks, crawled into his sleeping bag and turned off the lantern. "Cooled off pretty quickly once the sun started going down," he said.
"Ineed," I agreed. "These sleeping bags should be just right,"
We could hear Anna and Nan talking and giggling in the wagon. "They sure are having fun in there," said Maggie.
"Nan's never really had any friends," said Sean. "Having someone her age to talk to who has no preconceived notions about how she ought to think or behave is probably a bit intoxicating for her."
"I can relate," I said. "If I'd had a friend like that when I was growing up, it probably would have changed my life."
"Hey, what about me?" said Sean.
"I mean in my original timeline. It seems you may indeed have been that person here and now."
"What was so different?"
"I'm not going to talk about that, ever," I said. "You'll just have to accept that, Sean. That other past is gone. It never happened here and no good could possibly come of my talking about it."
"If you want to have your secrets, okay," he said, clearly a bit miffed.
"It's not a secret! It's not real. It was just part of a crazy dream I had while I was knocked out, remember? Not even a dream, it was a nightmare, one I want to forget about. Can't we please agree on that?"
"Okay, I'm sorry. I guess the nightmare simile works. I've certainly had nightmares I wouldn't want to share with anyone."
"Thank you, Sean." I kissed his cheek. "Good night."
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