Sunday, June 19, 2016

in which i get attacked by the tsa, and then get rich

i'm still not sure what to make of my recent luck.

i suppose the best way to put it is "well, it could have been worse."

i'll spare you the mundane parts of yesterday, which pretty much covers up until i arrived at aiken state park around 1:30 in the afternoon.

i'd chosen aiken partially because they were having a festival (the blackwater festival- presumably named because the edisto river, which is a blackwater river that runs across south carolina, runs through the park), and partially because here in south carolina we have something called the "ultimate outsider" program, which encourages you to visit all 47 state parks by bribing you with a free shirt*. i'm trying to finish my third lap through the parks by early to mid-august. aiken state park is #20 this time around.

so, anyway, upon my arrival, i decided the festival looked sort of interesting, but hiking would probably be more my speed. i set out on the "jungle trail"**.

i realized about a quarter mile into my hike that the nasty storms that came through columbia on friday, rearranging trees and messing up traffic along the way, had also torn through the park. 

the revelation was sparked by a spot in the trail where i seriously thought i'd missed a turn. a song had gotten stuck in my head***, and i'd wound up on some tangent and look! a squirrel! and wait a minute- why am i at a dead end?***

after backtracking slightly, then peeking around the wall of foliage confronting me, i determined that this "dead end" was a recent development. the blockage was too big for me to remove on my own (i don't hike with a chainsaw....or even a saw blade on my swiss army knife, for that matter), but with a gap big enough for me to squish through.

in the interest of not rivaling "the epic of gilgamesh" with this tale, let's fast forward past a few more downed trees, as well as my stop at one of the park's artesian wells- the latter of which i could honestly geek out over for a few paragraphs, because only two of our state parks still have the wells, which were installed by the civilian conservation corps back in the 1930s/40s- and get up to the part where i'd scrambled over a large downed tree on the park's longest boardwalk and wound up contemplating another that had fallen across the next boardwalk, but was resting about waist high, with an 18"-24" gap underneath. it was covered in old vines, and i'm a klutz, so it just seemed to make the most sense to shove my backpack through the gap, and follow it on my stomach.

i have a travel habit, and my backpack and i have been checked out before by the tsa. however, this was a more thorough evaluation by the tsa in aiken state park.

"tsa", in this case, does not refer to the folks eyeballing your luggage at the airport.

in this case, it's short for "tiny, stinging assholes".

i was asked several times today, starting with ranger robert (one of my faves), to whom i reported the conditions of the trail, "what stung you?"

honestly, aside from the fact they sure as sh!t weren't honeybees (or anything yellow, for that matter), i have no idea. they were dark, and they were fiesty, and they were clearly unhappy that i'd disturbed them. naturally, they expressed their displeasure not in words, but in deeds......namely attacking me with their pointy little butts.****

i'm still not completely certain how many times i was stung. my estimates when asked while driving back were around 20, but when i took a shower after (finally) getting home, i only saw about 9 little punctures. at any rate, my right ankle and left upper arm swelled up the most and, given this reaction, i really would have preferred that the two tsa "agents" that somehow got stuck under my shirt would have aimed for, say, a couple of things that, when swollen, would finally land me in a "c" cup, rather than my stomach which, frankly, i'd rather not have any more swollen than necessary.*****

most of those happened during and immediately following my passing under the log. the last two, however, were provided during the encore, which occurred not after beating on chairs, stomping feet, and yelling "one more song!", but after i foolishly thought i could retrieve my backpack (from its resting place still partially under the log) with a stick while the tsa agents were still hovering above it. 

after my second impromptu interpretive dance******, i briefly contemplated finishing my hike, and then batting the baby blues at a ranger in the hopes they'd take pity on me and retrieve my backpack for me, but then decided that maybe i could try to wait until the party over my backpack broke up and the swarm headed back home and then grab it and make a quick, quiet getaway.

five minutes later, i was finally able to continue down the trail.

(i should probably insert here that i later thanked my dad for his genes, because apparently whatever it is in mama's makeup that makes her deathly allergic to bug stings (she owns more than one epi-pen) has not developed in mine yet.)

a couple minutes after that, i was confronted by the most impressive blockage yet. multiple trees were involved, and i'm pretty sure it was roughly the same patch of boardwalk that was damaged during an ice storm a couple of years ago.

surmounting it did not appear to be the wisest idea, as i was likely to catch an ankle on one of the many branches and there wasn't likely to be anyone around to hear me scream.

turning around was most definitely not an option. in fact, it was so not an option that if matthew mcconaughey told me he would make sweet love to me if (and only if) i passed back under that log with him, i would pass- even if he looked exactly like his character in "magic mike".

i would try to talk him into a compromise, but if he held fast to his conditions, i would pass.

there's a book i used to read to my preschool class called muncha, muncha, muncha. it's the tale of a farmer who tried to defend his succulent veggies from a group of rabbits. i don't have it in front of me, but there's a part where the rabbits are trying to figure out how to get past yet another of his barriers. i can't remember exactly how it goes (again, i'm not at 100% here, after my nap was shortened), but it was something to the effect of "can't go under it. can't go over it. we'll go around it."

as i said, i'm not exactly certain that's exactly how it went, but it's how i went. i normally try to stick to the trail, but i wound up doing a bit of bushwhacking to get around this obstacle. 

the rest of the hike was pretty uneventful, aside from finally seeing a human on the trail who must be a plumber at least part time, because his crack was fully displayed while he was bent over some iffy looking mushrooms. (i'm not sure whether he was after the shrooms or some worms. i was too busy trying to avoid the glare of the sun reflecting off of his pasty derriere to look inside his bucket.)

so, let's fast forward again, past my reporting my incident to the rangers (after offering to help them clear the trail when they were ready) and my stopping at a produce stand at exit 44 (off i-20, if you're in the neighborhood), where i spent more than i'd planned ($22), but then found a $20 on the ground next to my car which either means that

a. someone else dropped the bill and i found it, the latter of which i consider a win, or
b. the bill fell out of my belongings somehow and i found it which means..... hey- i didn't lose $20. (this is also a win.)

...and stop again at the part where, found $20 tucked in wallet, purchases (peach vinaigrette, run apple butter, and a couple of jars of pickled veggies in a combination i haven't run across before) riding shotgun, i am back on i-20, top down, wind in my hair, butch walker cd playing on the stereo, and my "check engine" light, last seen only a week ago, comes on.


the last time this happened (i remember it as if it were a week ago, probably because it was only a week ago), it turned out that i was completely out of oil. fortunately, i had a couple of spare quarts in my trunk, so a temporary fix would not be a problem.

unfortunately (forrtunately?), my oil was fine.

you know that word that passed my lips at high volume while doing my impromptu interpretive dance in the woods? the one the new folks don't need to know i know? i cannot honestly tell you that it did not escape my lips as i slid the oil dipstick back into position after checking my oil (twice!).

fortunately, i was able to limp back home, despite the little light of certain doom being on and despite my chariot shaking not unlike a coin-operated bed in a motel that offers hourly rates. i am also fortunate that i got some excellent advice on how to get my error code checked without shelling out a ridiculous amount for it, and that the code correlates to something that, while it needs to be handled soon, wasn't so serious that i wouldn't be able to get to a (borrowed) backup vehicle.

oh- and i almost forgot...just when i thought my day had been exciting enough, as i was walking in from the car to my humble abode, the plastic packaging in which my produce stand purchases had been placed******* decided it was done for the day and an item dove out through the gap, crashing on the ground. thankfully, it was the one thing i'd purchased as a pair. (it smells like i'm really going to enjoy the contents of the surviving jar, too.)

so, really, since i didn't accidentally step on any snakes while bushwhacking in the woods or lose an important piece of my chariot on the highway and have to spend a couple of hours as a damsel in distress, waiting for aaa, and i found a bill bigger than $5 for the first time in 20+ years, i'd say that i had a pretty good day. 

*it's better to think of the shirt as being a freebie than to actually sit down and add up how many tanks of gas you bought in order to drive to all 47 parks to earn the shirt.

**sadly, devoid of monkeys; fortunately, also devoid of tigers and giant pythons

***it happens.

****unless it's the other end that's pointy. to be honest, i wasn't going to stick around to check, and i'm too sleep deprived/lazy to google it now.

*****let me go ahead and apologize to my english teachers for that multi-comma run on. then again, i write the way i talk, and that came out fewer breaths than one might expect.

******accompanied by a scream that came out as a combination of "AIEEEEEE" and a word that i shan't reprint here because, really, some of you may be new and i'd hate to break it to you this early that i know such salty language

*******tongue twister!

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