In town I had become great buddies with a few of the locals that saw us every summer for two weeks. I had taken the kids into town to get ice, make phone calls to civilization, have a cold one, and most importantly play horseshoes. We’d leave the ladies at camp (after mom and I retired to the cove to “bathe” – lots of great memories on that boat!) and motor into the little general store at Strawberry Valley. The horseshoe pit was right next to the store, adjacent to the “group W bench” where the local loggers and pot farmers would congregate every evening to drink and smoke. The kids would eat their ice creams, I would have my beverage, and we would trade war stories about the Grateful Dead with the locals and chill. Since the kids were little, they couldn’t reach the end of a regulation pit, so I let them back up a few feet and throw at the stake while I sat on one of the benches and threw from there.
Eventually the kids got to big to do that, my Grateful Dead buddy, “Digger,” died from sclerosis and it just wasn’t the same going into town any more.
Over the years the camping experience gradually began to decay, as did the condition of my boat, my marriage, and the kid’s relationships with each other. My soul mate and faithful black lab Daisy made her last trip in 1999. We had to put her down the week after we returned home. I love our yellow lab, Oakley to death, but there will never be another Daisy Mae of the Redwoods. She came into my life at a time I really needed a friend like her, and was the best friend to the kids as they were growing up. That is a story in itself.
Some of the friends that used to be such great buddies with my girls (they used to put together a “show” for the adults that they would rehearse the entire week and then perform on the last night) became boring or irritating. The great core of friends that we started out with in 1983 had gradually dwindled down. Everybody moved out of the bay area, or had married people that had different tastes from the camping experience we used to enjoy. A few got their own boats and just got on different schedules. The relatives that had once flocked to the shore tapered off and dried up altogether with the divorce. I went up one last time with the Ex and her sister with the kids, and we had a great time just like the old days (without the “bath” run), but knew it would be the last for that group.
The next year we went up with my daughter Kayla, her boyfriend, his buddy Josh and my best friend and Brother Paul. My new wife came up for the last weekend and we had a great time. The kids had their own vehicle and started going their own way much of the time. For the first time I was happy to stay on the beach and let them all go out on the boat and wakeboard. They started taking their own little trips into the forest, leaving dad and Paul at camp, in other words growing up.
We had had quite a few great trips out on the bay. We’d start .out at Oyster Point, stop off at pier 39 in San Francisco, head through the sailboats at St. Francis Yacht Club and out through the Golden Gate bridge. I never went very far out in the Ocean, although the boat does pretty well in seas up to about 6 feet after that it gets a bit nerve racking. From there we would cruise past Sausalito and Tiburon over to Angle Island for lunch. Once in a great while there was a stop at Zach’s for a cocktail, then back in the bay. The return trip was a spin around Alcatraz Island, followed by a stop off at AT&T (PacBell) Park – Home of your WORLD CHAMPION SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS. It’s great if there is an afternoon game on; you just anchor in McCovey cove and watch the game on the big screen while listening to it on KNBR.
There were a couple of trips (thankfully all with the “boys” where we had problems and had to be bailed out by the Coast Guard. Once I even had to have a windsurfer off of Coyote Point radio in for help for us. Another time we had to get towed into the base at pier 30 and walk to Western Marine to buy a battery. All good adventure!
The year before last we got everybody up to camp and the boat wouldn’t start. We spent literally days taking it into Oroville and picking it up only to put it back in the water and find it still broken. When we got home I took it into a repair shop again, spent $2,300 on it and the guy let my daughter pick it up only to tell her it still needs more work. He’s not sure how much it will cost because it entails a new gas tank, and the upholstery and trailer are shot. I don’t have anything to pull the damn thing because the ex got the truck in the divorce.
Last year the campground at our Lake was closed, and my daughter was in Guadalajara teaching Spanish to the locals, so there was no trip. This year it looks as if she will be going back, and our summer is getting booked with family reunions and the like. The lake was getting too crowded anyway. Since they doubled the size of the campground there are all sorts of jet skis and wake boarders in the water anyhow.
The boat needs about $5,000 worth of work to make it “nice” again. The kids are going their separate ways, and the old gang has disbanded. It makes no sense to keep the boat. Am I feeling this remorse because I just don’t like the fact that part of my life is gone forever? The kids are grown, the friends are scattered, the lake is more commercial, and Diggers dead. So is Jerry Garcia for that matter.
There are things that we do in our lives, our businesses, our relationships, that just don’t make any sense. Am I chasing memories, or is it realistic that I can fix the thing up and enjoy it with my new friends, my new wife, my new in-laws, and my new nieces and nephews? Can I really justify having that thing in my driveway 24/7/365 just for the few times a year we have these amazing experiences that I could never have any other way?
Hell, I’m only 57 and the house is paid for. Screw it, you only go around once. Like my good buddy Jesse says, “This is not a dress rehearsal.” How am I going to take JC out fishing without a boat? How many people get to watch the Giants in McCovey cove?
Thanks for helping me make up my mind. You have been a great listener, and it didn’t cost me $140 for a 50 minute hour.