In the summer of 2004, we set out to camp across the great American South in a nylon tent about the size of a residential bathtub.
Bound for Chattanooga we shot out of town with coolers, every blouse my wife owned, and our cat, Rascal. When I protested that Rascal didn’t belong on our camping trip; my wife suggested I eat a cow patty.
So, Rascal spent the entire ride coiled around my neck like an orthopedic brace. And somewhere around Georgiana, she managed to nick my eyeball with her back claws. Yes.
Our first night camping in Greenville wasn’t bad — from what I saw with my good eye.
The second night, we pulled in to Oak Mountain Park. After scouting for the perfect spot, I finally pitched our tent on hallowed brown-recluse mating grounds. Rascal licked herself with earnest while spiders big enough to file for health insurance procreated on our floor.
The next morning, after tossing our spider-infested tent into the dumpster, we drove to Noccalula Falls Park. It was magnificent. If you’ve never been to Noccalula — pronounced Nqwxvzkllrygha — it’s worth a visit. There are rock formations, gardens, trails, and lots of other places for getting into heated public arguments with your spouse.
That night, without a tent, we slept beneath the humid summer sky in our sleeping bags. Rascal nestled herself in my armpit while I watched strange clouds gather above us, blotting out the moon. And then, all hell broke loose. North Alabama received a record-breaking rainfall, tipping the scales at some seven million inches.
The next night was Mentone, Alabama. It was still raining. We slept in the truck. Rascal puked on my lap. Jamie snored.
The following morning: we limped into Chattanooga, where I vowed to never tent camp again. I checked in to the Holiday Inn. I could’ve kissed the lady behind the counter. The hotel was spectacular. Hot showers, cable television. We ate so many Cheetos my eyepatch turned orange. I left Rascal to sleep in the front seat of my truck.
I didn’t know cats could pee so much.