So, this is how it went down for me. Sorry, this is both really long, and incomplete. That's how I roll.
Monday night, I packed as much as I could, then went to sleep. Tuesday morning we got up pretty early, and loaded up the Jeep.
We drove out to the storage unit where we keep the guns, in order to comply with Chicago’s absurdly restrictive gun laws (by not keeping them in Chicago). We selected my Bushmaster XM15E2S, my Maadi MISR (Steph’s favorite), her Kel-Tec SU16A, her Savage .22 bolt action, my Sig-Sauer P226 9mm, and my Mossberg 500 with both long and short barrels. This was intended so we could shoot in the rifle matches, the pistol matches, and the skeet shooting. We inventoried our ammo and made a note of what we needed more of: 5.56mm and 9mm.
We headed south; we stopped at a Mexican place for lunch somewhere on the 55. It was decent and reasonably priced; I had the “Monterey Burrito“ lunch special. When we got to the St. Louis area, we stopped at Cabela’s for some much needed supplies. They had affordable 5.56mm, but were totally out of 9mm except for some expensive defensive +P stuff. We bought 200 rounds of 5.56mm plus a box of #7 ½ Sporting Clays 12 gauge shells, and a box of #9. These latter two were for skeet shooting. I eyeballed Harris bipods, wanting on for my AR15, but am undecided on whether I want to go with a Harris, or a Mako bipod-VFG. Leaning towards the Harris but the Mako has advantages as well. I also checked out some silicone-impregnated “gun socks” but wanted to solicit opinions on the board before buying any.
The employee at Cabela’s who had told us they were out of 9mm very politely directed us to a shop in town, “so-and-so’s reloading,” (I don’t remember the name) where they might have had 9mm in stock. We followed his directions, and after successfully avoiding a very aggressive young woman driving a bright red sports car, we got to the shop. The did indeed have 9mm in stock; Steph and I each bought a box. I also played with the Crimson Trace display. I really want a set for my Sig.
So, ammo taken care of, we set out for our usual destination: Motel 6! We always stay in Motel 6 when we travel because it’s usually the cheapest thing going, and you always know what you’re going to get, except that sometimes you get a bathtub and sometimes you don’t. This time we did! And we could park the car right in front of our room so it was easy to haul all our gear inside. Steph taught me to use her fancy camera and I took some pictures of my guns. I also checked and photographed the gas key staking on my AR; it actually looks pretty good to me, but I do plan on posting pics for evaluation at some point. We watched TV, but there was no Man vs. Wild or Survivorman, so we watched Dark Knight and some other stuff. Oh, and we ordered a Domino’s pizza like we always do when we stay at Motel 6. They were having a special on their Pacific Veggie which has like spinach and feta and shit, so we got one of those (extra large). And a 12 pack of beer, Blue Moon I think, from the liquor store across the street. Steph went to sleep early, I stayed up pretty late, drinking beers and posting on the forums.
Next morning, we showered, and re-packed the car. Drove down the 55 to the next part of our road trip ritual: it’s always Motel 6 and Domino’s at night, and when we can, Waffle House the next morning! I always get a triple order of hash browns, this time I got an Egg McMuffin analog as well. And coffee, of course. We gassed up at Sinclair and, like usual, Steph took my picture by the fiberglass Apatosaurus.
Following the handy map and directions, we made our way to the cabin. The large ZS flag left no doubt that we’d come to the right place. We parked on the lawn, and hung out with the property owner, who was super awesome, gave us a beer, and chatted with us until the shuttle arrived. The shuttle consisted of a super awesome dude possibly named Alex (names have been changed to protect the fact that I can’t remember anybody’s name), who helped us load our obnoxious amounts of shit including all the bags of groceries we’d bought at Wal-Mart with no plan for how to pack them!
So, we were delivered to the gate and unloaded. Jen checked us in and was super awesome as well. We got our packets and began the arduous task of schlepping all our bullshit up the damned rock. We had some help…Crypto? Pistol Pete? Someone awesome. Everybody waved from Manbath. We got our shit to base camp and then scouted out a campsite. Brilliantly, I found a semi-level (less than 45 degrees above the horizontal) spot to pitch our tent, by going pretty close to as far up the damned mountain as we could. In hindsight I wish I’d considered a lower elevation, perhaps laterally, like past the latrine or something. That hill would end up being the bane of my week, and I assume I’m not alone in this.
Anyway, I’d planned on going on the hike with Dimmie, but by the time she was leading the hike, Steph and I were both still busy schlepping, and far too hot and exhausted to even consider a hike. I had to take frequent breaks and drink lots of water to avoid heat exhaustion, which was feeling like a very real risk. We got unpacked, set up the tents, and hit Manbath.
Oh, and I met Michelle and Kyle, who thus became real meatspace people instead of just imaginary Internet people. And Pistol Pete told me he wasn’t really going to make me clean the latrines in penance for starting a thread where everybody ended up talking about explosives, which was nice of him.
So Manbath was awesome, and I met lots of other internet people, like Crypto and Ricky Romero, and a bunch of others who I remember but can’t put face to screen name. And then it was time for the food seminar dealy: “How to Make a Fancy Meal with Wood and Short Shorts - Gourmet Campfire Cooking with Sgt HotPants.” There was awesome chili made with a shelf-stable meat stick…Pepperettes? Something like that? They were delicious. And then there was pizza, and dessert thingies. It was rad. I filled up on chili and didn’t cook the hot dogs I’d brought, with no cooler, planning on cooking them on night 1. Which I did not do.
And then there was some debriefing (which seemed more like a briefing?) and a meet-and-greet. I think they told us how to not die, and how to not get an IRL asshat. And I met people, and greeted them. And then there may have been zombie movies but I don‘t remember them. Wait…um…nope, don‘t remember. We were exhausted and Steph talked me into going to bed early.
Didn’t sleep so great: too hot, too sticky, and the steep incline didn’t help. None of this changed over the week and I didn’t really get used to it. Sleep time was definitely the least fun part of the week, which is the opposite of normal life when it’s the highlight of my day, sometimes.
God, the bugs. There were giant freaking bugs everywhere.
Thursday was Seminar Day for me. After firing up the MSR Pocket Rocket for coffee and oatmeal, we started it off with Dr. Jest’s HAM radio seminar which Steph was SUPER excited about and I enjoyed as well. I do regret having to skip B3’s self-defense seminar, however. But HAM was awesome. Then we headed down to check out the charity seminar. I cooked the day-old hot dogs and ate three of them, with no immediate ill effect. Round about noon we hit ManBath again, which is where I met ManSnake. We later decided ManSnake was a Northern (or Common?) Water Snake, and not a Water Moccasin as originally reported. Still best not to fuck with ManSnake.
At around 1:45 it was time to Make Boom-Boom with Pistol Pete, which was also AWESOME. I hand loaded 10 rounds of 9mm ammunition, under Pete’s instruction. The main take-away from this seminar, other than 10 rounds of 9mm, was that hand loading really is possible for your average noob. I’d need to do some more research before actually giving it a go, but Pete made it clear that it really is a viable option for the average, competent do-it-yourselfer.
Straight after the ammo loading, Dr. Cat led us on an awesome wild plant identification walk. I was the guy who tasted everything she pointed at, including Cow Slobber (aka Spider Wort) which someone wiser than I aptly described as tasting like “green beans and grass.” The Reindeer Lichen tasted like moldy sawdust, while the Wood Sorrel was nice and tart. Apparently it gives you liver cancer or something if you eat a billion tons of it, though. Then we headed over towards the parking area for Wild Ginger, which tasted just like the real thing although not quite as strong, and a Cow’s Eye Daisy (something like that) which tasted like, I dunno, a flower I guess. Oh, and then out to the road for what turned out to be my favorite: Plantain, both the broad- and narrow-leafed varieties tasted exactly, as Cat described, like “spinach salad with blue cheese dressing.” We have these all over the parks and yards in Chicago so this one was very useful to me. I like the flavor and will add it to salads in the future after washing all the weed killer off of it. The seminar ended with an awesome snack break: sassafras tea (oh, wait…maybe THAT’S the one that gives you liver cancer…), candied ginger, some biscuits (I forget what the wild edible was in those but they were good) and two kinds of jam (ginger and mint? Rose? Hell, I forget). They were awesome.
After snacky time we hit ManBath for a couple hours again, I ate two more hot dogs and Steph had seen enough to eat the last one. Then we set out for Isotek’s fire building seminar. This was truly awesome as well. He demonstrated various methods of fire starting. The Swedish Fire Steel, his favorite, was mine as well. Worked great. He also showed how to set steel wool on fire with two AA batteries; I thought it would be a slow process but it was INSTANT. Vaseline-treated cotton balls proved to be a most impressive tinder; the plain variety were functional but less impressive. Steel wool and a “bird’s nest” of cedar bark proved effective as well. He passed around a fire piston and explained how it worked; it was a beautiful object (it smelled good, too) but seemed costly and impractical for fire starting. Isotek also demonstrated flint and steel, and how to build a proper fire. He got a good one going and was going to use it to cook his dinner; Steph and I set out for the Pocket Rocket to do the same.
Well, anyway, a lot of other awesome stuff happened, but I’m tired and so I’m not going to write any more right now.