It’s late April at a Blue Ridge Mountain campground “resort.” Most people’s idea of a resort doesn’t involve sleeping on the ground next to a fire and using a composting toilet. But this place is every bit a resort today, as me and two old friends sit next to a stack of logs and a fire ring cooking our shins and a few Bubba Burgers and watching the subtle light of late spring amble through the new leaves poking out of sappy branches above our heads.
About 20 yards away, a dude named Juice (it says so on his bike in scripted letters) rides up on a Suzuki motorcycle. He is a dude indeed, biked-up and as hairy as a Duck Dynasty cousin. After he gets off his bike and starts collecting sticks in the woods, I see him light up something that smells like being downwind in college as he casually eyes my stash of wood. Juice looks harmless even with his long hair and bandana pulled tight around his head. Then I see him checking out my MoonPies on the picnic table.
“Come on over and have some MoonPies,” I yell across the clearing, waving the box. And here he comes, doing the motorcyle rider strut. It’s an affected motion caused by riding a big machine all the time, not unlike a cowboy or a guy with a bum knee. He has a small tent tied on the back of his bike with a sleeping bag. He travels light and camps lighter.
“Pretty day, bro,” he says. “Nice stack of firewood.”
I held up a saw. “They told me if a tree was down, I could turn it into firewood. Wanna borrow it?”
“Naaa,” he grunts. “Too much work. I’ll scrouge enough scraps to make do.”
He shifts his weight awkwardly back and forth for a minute in silence, and then he clicks his mouth like he’s calling a dog. But he has no dog.
“Name’s Juice,” he says, looking around carefully like someone will hear him. “Listen fellas, me and a couple of girls are gonna be partying a little later, so if you hear some loud music,” he pauses and grins some impressive gold dentures, “just saying.”
“We may drown out your music with this new-fangled iPhone speaker I got on Amazon. Small size. Big sound.”
He stoops over to see it and I punch Neil Young’s “Rocking In the Free World.” It jerks him out of his mellowness into a wide-eyes startled panic look as if I had slapped him.
“Maybe I should go ahead and apologize for ruining your party,” I say.
“That thing cranks out some volume,” he says, rubbing his neck.
“The Jimmy Buffett tunes aren’t as rough,” I say. “But I must warn you that I got everything AC/DC and ZZ Top ever recorded, remastered and soaked in high fidelity. And this little machine goes all the way to eleven.”
“Maybe I will borrow that saw,” he said, perhaps envisioning a sleepless night next to the old guys rocking out in the woods.
I give him the saw and a box of MoonPies and he wanders off back towards his rusted fire ring. The girls he mentioned never show up. About 10:30 pm, I see his lonely silhouette sitting next to his little scraggly fire, beer in hand, thoughts far away.
I reach over and click “It’s a Long Way To the Top If You Wanna Rock”N” Roll” and turn it all the way up. His head bobs and slowly turns in our direction and I can see a gold tooth shining in the firelight. He holds up us a gloved hand with a thumb’s up.