Ok, so lets try this again. Off we went. We were headed to a little campground at Land between the Lakes in Springville, TN. The Land between the Lakes is a national recreation area between the Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley.
We arrive at the same light where Juan had previously remembered that he couldn't remember where his wallet was when I remembered that we didn't remember our fold up chairs!!! There is something about that traffic light! If you are in the area and know that you forgot something but cant remember what it is go to the traffic light by Rural King in Clarksville, you will remember what you forgot!
Determine not to return home again that night we continued on our trip. We finally stopped somewhere outside of Dover Tn and bought folding chairs at the local Dollar General.
I would love to say at this point that we were thrilled and anxious with anticipation of a great weekend but that wasn't the case. Juan was hungry and still mad at himself over the wallet. I was tired and was wondering how exactly a camp fire WITHOUT a beer was going to taste!
We finally made our way down a long gravel road. Towering White Pines filled the empty hill sides. Rusty red pine needles were scattered across the sandy rock littered shore lines as the last of the sun light danced across the water. I stared out of my passenger side window in awe of the magnificent site.
When we arrived at camp we were greeted by Kimber and Benelli, our friends (Mark and Kayleigh) 160 lb Great Danes. Kimber and Benelli were thrilled to have full access to the Lake. After the typical dog greetings of barking and inappropriate sniffing they showed off their romping skills as the ripped off back towards the lake. The fresh air, towering trees, the sound of water crashing against the shore lines, and the great companionship of man and animal alike, put every muscle in my body at ease.
Juan and Mark unloaded our camping gear and started to set up our tent. Kayleigh and I pulled the short straw and had to make a run for fire wood. Luckily the store we bought the rick of wood from also sold fishing license. I needed to get my licensed updated for the year so I took advantage of the time away from camp.
Once we returned, the boys had everything together...except there was just this small little but not so insignificant detail that they left off the tent. "Baby, you forgot the rain gear", I said delicately. "I know babe, we don't need it", my husband said reassuringly. "But hun we are suppose to have rain this weekend, I looked at the weather, will you please help me put it on", I asked. Being a good husband and trying to keep my pregnancy as stress free as possible he didn't argue.
Finally our tent was equipped with rain gear and I couldn't contain myself any farther. Even though the sun was setting, I had to drop a line in the water!
I baited my hook and in less than 5 minutes I felt my first bite. My heart started to pump a little faster! Suddenly I felt a tug and a pull! My line quickly shot to the left and then to the right! "I got one", I squealed in excitement! Juan jumped up to help if I needed it.
I reeled in my catch.... A 4 inch bluegill! Yeah that's right, a whopping 4 inches... and even at that, I may be telling a fish tale!
Juan caught the fever. He threw out his line. After about 20 minutes darkness had settled upon us, along with a swarm of mosquitoes of biblical proportions! We decided to give it up for the night. We retired by the camp fire. The smoke kept the bugs at bay and the entertainment couldn't be beat.
Benelli sat at Kayleigh's feet occasional perking up her ears as Mark and Juan enthusiastically shared their stories about their deployment together years ago in Afghanistan. The camp fire crackled and sizzled as I drifted in and out of the moment to my personal thoughts. War stories had always made me anxious. Maybe it was the atmosphere or perhaps the company, but as I listened on, my anxiety about Juan's future deployments waned.
Knowing the type of men that my husband has been stationed with before puts a little bit of that gnawing anxiety about the future to rest. I listened and laughed at their stories. Oh how boys will be boys! No matter where they are or what they are doing, they will always find a way to horse play. Mark and Juan have great chemistry. I felt sure that their deployment together was made easier because of their companionship. I am glad that fate put Mark and his fiance Kayleigh are here with us.
After a few hours of camp fire stories,a little before midnight I decided to hit the hay. I hadn't quit drifted off to sleep when my husband tiredly felt his way through the dark tent. He nestled in closely beside me and kissed my cheek. "Goodnight baby", he whispered.
Then one of the sweetest things happened! The first rain drop hit the tent! Thank goodness for that rain gear!
I heard Mark and Kaylee rustling around trying to get their rain gear on in the dark before the down pour. Juan must have been coherent enough to hear all of this as well. "Good call baby, good call", he repeated in a groggy voice. Satisfied, I peacefully drifted off to sleep with a smile on my face.
The next morning I enjoyed a slice of my homemade banana bread by the lake. I shared a bite with Kimber as we watched a blue hereon sweep down in attempts to catch a fish. The poor thing came back up empty handed. I understood its disappointment as I had hoped for fish for breakfast as well.
We enjoyed a relaxing day by the lake. We fished and ate, swam and ate, talked and ate, and then ate some more! After our steak dinner we all once again gathered around the camp fire. The night was still. There wasn't much of a breeze. The water was quiet. Even the birds were quiet. I thought about how peaceful it was there and then I remembered that we would be leaving soon.
I looked up at the sky. Between the pine tree tops the moon lit the night sky into a pale blue. We were all fairly quiet. Kayleigh broke the silence as she voiced her dread for the next morning. Dismantling camp was on everyone's mind.
After I finished the last of my ginger ale, I was yet again the first to wander back to my tent for some shut eye. Juan followed shortly behind me. We comfortably fell asleep as a nice breeze finally started to stir. At around 11:00 pm I had to go pee. I walked up to the bath house. I could feel the breeze pick up to a steady swift pace. The wind wrapped my hair around my face. I pulled the stray hairs from my mouth. I could hear Mark and Kayleigh down at the camp fire but all I could see was red coals blowing towards the lake.
Tiredly I returned to my warm spot in my tent. About an hour later I was awakened by sound of large rain drops. The intensity increased. The wind blew rain through the open tent windows. Juan and I got up and zipped up the tent. The wind picked up and the rain beat down upon us. We both laid there wide eyed hoping that the storm would soon pass. It didn't.
The intensity of the storm brewed. A tree toppling over and killing us both, much like what happened to my cousin, entered my mind. Just as I was really starting to worry, our rain gear was ripped from our tent shell, leaving us and all our belongings vulnerable to the pouring rain.
Juan jumped up as the front of our tent collapsed. He held it up as the 60 mile an hour winds fought against him. "Hurry baby, put on your shoes, I cant hold it much longer", he said intensely. I was afraid I would slip and fall in wet flip flops so I decided to struggled with my tennis shoes instead. Juan pushed against the heavy wind to keep our tent up. Finally I grabbed what I could of our bags and we made a run for the truck.
As I peeled off for the truck I looked behind me to see Mark and Kayleigh also running for their truck, calling after Kimber and Benelli. I glanced back at their camp site. Their tent was already demolished.
I jumped in the truck and Juan peeled out away from the trees towards the cinder block shower house. He must have been reading my mind! My cell was dead and Juan was pretty sure he had left his in the tent that was now filled with water. We ran to the shower house.
Between the cold rain and the adrenalin, I shivered uncontrollably. "Baby, I am so cold, can we go sit in the truck", I pleaded. Juan was unsure if it was safe but he reluctantly agreed. As we ran back to the truck our heads were beat with nickel size hail. Once inside, I cringed as I heard the ice bounce off the truck.
Finally the hail stopped and the beating rain waned to a lighter but steady pace. Juan and I debated, even if we wait till it quits raining all of our stuff is still soaked. We were both on the same page. We decided to dismantle in the rain, head home, go to sleep and deal with the mess at home after a good rest.
Together we operated like a well oiled machine. Juan worked the outside of the tent as I walked through 2 inches of water to retrieve our saturated linens. We had camp dismantled and cleaned in less that 45 minutes in the pouring rain night sky!
Luckily we made it home with out any major damage to our gear. By Sunday evening all of our gear was cleaned, dried and put away. We laid on the couch wrapped up in each others arms, thankful for each other... and thankful to have found out exactly how well we work together under fire.
I reflected on the weekend. Sometimes, the magnitude of outside forces has little to do with how well you weather the storm. Its about your companionship, the company that you keep so to speak, like the chemistry between Mark and Juan, brothers in war...or like us... Lovers Caught the Storm.