I don’t know why I thought it would be fun to camp on the beach on Labor Day weekend. I hate the beach–the sand, the lack of shade, the crowds–but Sheff and Kel talked me into it.
It was hot as Hades in Texas that summer, so I supposed they were hoping for some cool relief. Also, Sheff and I were meeting Kel in the middle, halfway between her home and ours, and the Texas Gulf Coast fit the bill.
I don’t remember it being crowded out there. We had plenty of room for a camp near where Sheff’s truck and Kel’s Jeep were parked. Since we arrived late in the afternoon, the sun was low in the sky and didn’t beat down on us so terribly. There was nothing to do about the sand, so I just tried to pretend I wasn’t up to my ankles in it.
Let’s set up the tent, I said soon after we arrived.
Let’s play in the water! Kel and Sheff said, so we did. The water was a relief, even though it was bathtub warm. The waves bounced us as we talked.
Let’s set up the tent, I said when we got out of the water. The afternoon shadows were long, and I knew darkness would surprise us with its swiftness.
Let’s eat dinner! Sheff and Kel said, so we cooked our veggie burgers. (Did we build a fire? Did we use a camp stove? The memory is lost.)
Let’s set up the tent, I said when the food was gone.
Let’s drink a beer! Kel and Sheff said, and I cautiously agreed one beer would be ok.
Let’s set up the tent, I said halfheartedly when my bottle was empty.
Let’s have another, Sheff and Kel said, and I knew all was lost. I knew we weren’t going to set up any tent that night.
During our beer drinking, the sun went down, and the mosquitoes came out. At some point during my second beer, I got my hands on a can of insect repellent and accidentally sprayed its foul contents into my mouth. (Thanks goodness I hadn’t sprayed it in my eye!) My mouth was tingly for a while, then numb the rest of the night.
Where are we going to sleep? I whined when the beers were gone. We had some concern about alligators (not an unfounded fear on a Texas Gulf Coast beach), so Sheff suggested we throw our sleeping bags in the back of his truck and stretch out there.
Earlier in the day, Sheff and I had talked about mosquitoes. He claimed they never bit him. I don’t know, he shrugged. I guess they just don’t like me.
The mosquitoes certainly liked me that night. Despite having the taste of insect repellent in my mouth, mosquitoes were attacking me with vigor.
I got fully into my sleeping bag in an attempt to discourage the bloodsuckers. Unfortunately, I had a winter bag rated for about 45 degrees. It was probably at least 85 degrees out there, even after dark. I spent several hours trying to stay completely covered by my bag so the mosquitoes couldn’t bite me, but that led to me growing unbearably hot. I’d throw off the sleeping bag until I could no longer stand being eaten alive, then I’d get back into the bag. It was an uncomfortable cycle that didn’t allow for much sleep.
Kel gave up first. She abandoned the back of the truck and sought refuge in her Jeep. Later Sheff admitted he was getting bitten, so he scooped up his dog and his sleeping bag and retired to the truck’s cab. I thought I’d tough it out, although I’m not sure how I thought I’d be about to stay outside if Sheff was suffering so much he had to leave.
I didn’t tough it out for long before I was in the Jeep with Kel. She’d already claimed the passenger seat, so I squeezed in behind the steering wheel.
I thought the night was never going to end. I was exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. I was hot, and I was itchy. My body was uncomfortable, my neck at a funny angle, and I was cramped because I couldn’t stretch out. It was one of the longest nights of my life.
Finally, the sky lightened a little, then there was a bit of pink. The sun rose a perfect red ball in the sky. I unfolded myself from the driver’s seat and went for a walk along the water’s edge. The last few hours had been awful, but I’d survived.
Photo of aligator courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/alligator-head-151354/. Photo of beach by Robert Villalta from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/body-of-water-near-brown-soil-under-blue-sky-during-sunset-128458/.