I’m going to push back the promised post, “Mountain Men, Immigrants, Prospectors, Gold Rush, Settlement!” to tell you some stories of our current location at the Honey Lake RV park. Honey Lake is an endorheic sink, which means that the location absorbs water flow from the surrounding mountains with no drain out, which turns the “lake” into a summer alkali flat mirage. Our RV park sits just off 395 running alongside the tan brown waterless expanse, and is about on the same latitude as Red Bluff, California, on Interstate 5. This very road, in the latter part of the 19th century, was the main thoroughfare for the “Honey Lakers,” who farmed the area and directed the richness of their fields and cattle to provision the miners of the Comstock Lode and other gold and silver strikes further south. These folks were serious opportunists, recognizing that they could control the roads, and turned what would become 395 into a toll road.

Ruth and I pulled in, performing our routine setup of the trailer: leveling side-to-side, front-to-back, unhitching, dropping trailer stabilizers, connecting water, sewer, electrical, unbattening interior necessities, extending awnings, and connecting LED adornments. (Ah! That old Burning Man spirit and expression lives proud in us, and nothing says Airstream at night more than the reflection of LEDs off the aluminum skin of our silver twinkie).

Our truck has, in the back seat area, a large Yeti cooler which acts as a backup fridge to our trailer and makes a fantastic perch for Gyp to lie in her bed and look out at the prospects of the changing terrain.

I ambled over to the park office, walked up to the counter, and asked for a bag of ice from the man behind the counter, then quickly became aware of the shelves and items packed all around us. It was like a disheveled grocery-hardware-furniture-antique-old cassette video-store compressed into a closet the size of a Manhattan apartment. The man stared at me for a long minute, and finally spoke saying, “I just had triple open heart surgery and can’t lift more than a loaf of bread.”

With one eye trying to convey cordiality and the other spying and hoping that the name Ted on the park permit on the wall was his, I addressed him with words of reassurance that he wouldn’t have to lift a finger. He gave me another long look, and we became engaged in a rapidly deepening conversation on his not understanding why life could take his 28-year-old son with a lung clot from a girlfriend’s misplaced playful kick in the leg, yet he would go on to live so long and survive a catastrophic surgical event. He described how he felt pain radiating down both arms and a stiff neck one night, and called the local fire medics for assistance…just in case. After quick assessment they called in a helicopter which quickly landed and brought him to Reno about 80 miles south. I was thinking to myself, this man either has one hell of an insurance policy or will own a major bill for what could be in store.

Ted told me that after tests, the medical team told him that he should prepare for surgery in 24 hours; then in a short time returned to inform him that it would be immediately. The last he remembered as the anesthetic took him was the surgeon telling the OR team to hurry and get a vein because, “This man has only hours to live.”

It was my turn to stare long and hard at my narrator.

Recovery was long and hard. He had to relearn everything and he told me the most excruciating pain he ever experienced in his life was sneezing. He said that if he had a gun he would have put it to his head and pulled the trigger. We both commiserated on the process of cracking and stretching open ribs and all the cutting and manipulation of the chest which would have to mend in hard earned time. Thoughts of my recovery from simple pleurisy, lungs rubbing against the chest wall lining, and how painful that was played in my mind, like stories of the inflictions of religious inquisitors.

At this point Ted stood up slowly and said, “I wouldn’t show this to a woman but look at my chest!” He was right about one thing. Damn! Cut from stem to stern, but the work was masterful and had healed cleanly. I reckoned that in short time you wouldn’t hardly notice the scars. I also noted that in regard to Ted’s personality, the mental scars would be practically invisible soon as well!

Ted spoke about how during his convalescence his wife ran the RV park, worked a full-time job as a local postal inspector, and still found time to drive almost daily into Reno to help him recover and participate in physical therapy. During our conversation I was trying as hard as I could to squeeze back my tear ducts from releasing a torrent. We talked about living and learning, opening up our minds and hearts to opportunities and appreciating what we have, when and while we have it. Our proprietor invited me to visit his son’s shrine which he built with a running water fall and a koi pond. Ted reminded me that his RV rates were frozen at the turn of the 21st century because he just didn’t need the money despite the protests of parks in the general vicinity who claimed that he was taking business from them. Ted told them that he wasn’t making it hard on them but easier for the customer.

Now, this place is no wonderland KOA Kamping experience. The RV pull-ins are sandy. The water pressure is sporadic. The more permanent clients are scary looking, and the closest town, Susanville is about 25 miles away; but Ted dropped to me that he brings in a quarter of a million dollars a year and just doesn’t need to get rich by ripping off customers. Now that’s a twist!

Oh yeah…and I picked up our ice…