March mudness and a happy encounter of the camper kind

It had rained for about 24 hours straight. The first thing we do upon waking is take MacDuff out for his morning constitution. When we opened the side door of the van we quickly realized that we were sitting dead centre in a thick molten chocolate coloured pool and that the dog needed to be carried to high ground if we were going to return to bed for an extra twenty minutes of sleep after our first morning walk. Because, of course, muddy paws are not welcome on the duvet. The rest of the morning proceeded as it usually does…. coffee, granola, catch up on email and social media, if we have data, and we did not at this park, wash dishes, wash ourselves (today was a shower day), dress, pack up the van to move, plot out the day.

And this is where things went a bit sideways. The van was not just sitting in a chocolate coloured pond it was good and stuck. So, we took turns behind the wheel while the other tried to push the 10,000 lb van from the rear. The sixth time was a charm. We made it out and, Julie, whose turn it was to push (HA!) ended up splattered in mud from head to toe. You see the mud was propelled backwards with considerable force because Christian both accelerated and turned the steering wheel at the perfect moment to free the van. AND pummel Julie. Have you ever been hit with high velocity mud? If so, you know it kind of hurts. Particularly so when startled. That shower suddenly seemed like a waste of time and resources as did changing into freshly laundered clothes. She was still picking mud out of her hair that night. (Sorry, no photos were taken!)

All of that excitement occurred before 11am! We had decided, prior to freeing the van, to drive to Tarpon Springs since it was sunny. Tarpon Springs was named for the abundant fish seen jumping in nearby waters by early settlers. You may know of it because it is the ‘sponge fishing capital of the world’ thanks to the Greek fishermen who introduced their sponge fishing technique to this part of Florida’s Gulf Coast.

By the time we got there it had begun to rain again. Nevertheless we wandered through town, avoiding the touristy spots as much as possible, our explorations centred on the aptly named, Athens Street. We popped into National Bakery to pick up a few honey-soaked sweets, then on to Agora Food Market for a few groceries – lentils, feta, dolmades, even some Retsina – and once we were sufficiently damp we hopped back in the van and drove all way to the end of the causeway for a view of the Gulf of Mexico.

We’d just parked the van and were admiring the view when a man emerged from a vehicle that looked a whole lot like our van. He walked over and began talking. His name was Rob, we think, and he was from Albany, NY. He had just retired, sold his home, drove to Florida and bought himself a brand new top of the line campervan. Where ours is on a Ram Promaster chassis, his was a Mercedes. And boy was he happy. He had just made himself some lunch after walking on the beach; watched a show on his television; had a soda pop from his fridge; sat outside for a while under the awning while the rain fell; was considering having a nap. Or maybe he’d have a cup of tea.

“Who knows,” said Rob, “maybe I’ll do it all, because I can. I love this thing. I told my kids, sorry, but I spent your inheritance on this van.”

He was grinning from ear to ear as he shared the play by play of his day. By the time we said our goodbyes we too were grinning from ear to ear. Ricky Gervais is right, happiness is so amazing it doesn’t matter if it’s yours or not. (Sadly, we didn’t take a photo of Rob or his brand spanking new van.)

By the time we made it back to camp for the night the rain had stopped and the sky looked good enough to eat, like pink, fluffy, cotton candy. We sat and watched the sky change colour while sipping on glasses of Retsina and reflecting on the day.