The RV guy was friendlier, well, far less suspicious at least, in the morning. I never met his wife, so it may have been a Norman Bates situation in that mobile home, but in any case, his wife or him in a wig seemed to have cooled down a bit after a good night's sleep. If getting out into nature can't take your edge off, maybe it's time for an entire life re-evaluation. There is no shame in take some time off in a mental wellness facility for some real rest and relaxation. They'd even have a chance to talk with professionals about how to make their overall life more enjoyable. How to cope with the day to day without living in fear and on the brink. I mean, trees can only do so much.
After giving him a peace offering of a Philly Bike Tours sticker (he could slap it on the golf cart parked behind his RV), I headed back to my site to pack up. While breaking down my tent and stuffing my odds and ends into assorted sacks and panniers, the real campground hosts rolled up. They were a retired couple, and the husband was quick to loudly apologize for the shenanigans of the night prior. He said that the RV across the way housed two overzealous trainees who didn't quite get how everything worked yet. I don't know if the trainees could hear him over their air conditioning, but it wasn't for lack of trying on the host husband's part. They then said to swing up to their site before I left to pay, as they didn't have change in their golf cart.
Once I was all packed and hitched, I climbed back out of the park to their site. Like the ACOE camps, the State Parks had been mostly designed with RVs in mind. Getting out of camp was a slow crawl with tired legs. An unnoticeable ascent for a car, though. Should be some sort of effort-based discount for bikes, right?
The campground hosts gave me big smiles and waves as I came up. As they made change for my overpriced campsite (more on that in a later post), we talked about camping and hosting. They were avid campers and enjoyed hosting as an extension of that. Apparently, Southern state parks could get quite competitive for hosting spots, as Canadians pour down to escape their cold weather later in the season. This couple already had other plans for their winter, though. They were going to be snowmobiling through the Black Hills once the winter set in. It was safe to say they were far more adventurous than the trainees parked across the street. How many folks do you know that spend their retirement blasting down snow-packed horse trails in southwestern South Dakota? Heck, that even sounds a bit much for me, with the low temperatures and the high chances of slamming into a tree at 60mph.
What made this even more incredible to me was the fact that the whole time they recounted their past adventures and future plans to me, the husband was being held up by a pair of titanium legs. He clearly didn't let them slow him down, and he wasn't shy about bringing them up. Since he wasn't shy, I had questions.
Apparently he had lost them because of a fall. Not directly from the fall, but due to complications resulting from the fall. He'd fallen off of a ladder or building while working (I really wish I'd written this all down somewhere) a few years back, and had landed on his legs, breaking them both. Based on a minuscule amount of research on my part, it sounds like he had a tibial shaft fracture, which sounds ungodly painful. So the impact sent a lengthwise fracture up each of his tibia and/or fibula, requiring multiple surgeries to attempt to repair the damage. After the first rounds of surgery, while he gained some mobility, the pain was still unbearable. After the next few round, it was still terrible. Eventually, it seemed he wouldn't be able to get rid of his pain without getting rid of his legs. Presented with the choice between a life filled with pain and a life with metal legs, he took the metal legs. And that was that. No more pain, and with some rehab and practice, he was back at a point where, in his 60's, he was snowmobiling through South Dakota and camphosting around the country. It was inspiring to say the least. He saw the loss of two limbs as an obvious solution to a problem rather than as a life changing dismemberment and appeared to have zero regrets after making the decision. Apparently "practical" and "fearless" don't need to be on opposite sides of the personality spectrum.
After saying my goodbyes and receiving well-wishes, I hit the road, only getting lost briefly as I tried to find Route 42. Flovilla, GA isn't a bustling metropolis, but apparently it has a middle school that takes day trips to the state park. It's impossible to seem like you're not lost when riding a bicycle full of orange bags past a classworth of 8th graders a second time in less than ten minutes. No. I'm not from these parts.
My day was spent mostly in or around state or federally protected land, something I wasn't used to down South. I'd started in Indian Springs, moved through Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, over Lake Oconee (with its $500/night Ritz Carlton) which fed into the Oconee National Forest, and eventually reached A.H. Stephens State Park. Georgia felt like a shift into a different kind of South. The humidity lowered, the timezone changed, and State and National Parks started reappearing, which meant no more ACOEs. My only fear with this shift was that there would be no more pickled eggs. I'd miss that South.
A.H. Stephens was situated in Crawfordville, a town that could be missed mid-blink, which was were I made a pre-camp Dollar General run. I don't know that I'd ever been inside a Dollar General prior to this tour, and I seemed to be stopping there every other day by now. Stocked, I headed into camp. I knew this experience would be better than the last one just based on the fact that the entrance bore a sign that read something like: "If arriving after 5pm, please check-in in the morning." Oh good. This State Park shouldn't have crazy town trainees up my ass.
I was loving these late summer Southern parks. Per the usual, my site was in a very unpopulated campground. There was one site occupied by someone on a motorcycle tour and another site much further off with an RV, but aside from that, I had the place to myself. At the nearly $30 per night they were charging for tent campers, I'd have rather had the entire place to myself. And maybe a nice hot tub waiting for me. Was that too much to ask?
|A.H. Stephen's State Park Bathroom (Courtesy of GAStateParks.org)|
Before I wrapped up dinner, another car pulled into the campground loop, parking in front of the "Comfort Station" (bathroom). It was a family of four, and they weren't there for camping. We chatted for a bit, and it turned out that they were from Crawfordville and their electricity had recently been shut off. Without a functional water heater, they were running up to the state park at night to make sure their kids could still take hot showers. It was good to be reminded there are worse things in life than $28 campground fees...