Friday, April 06, 2007

Revenge of the Last-borns

Land Rover Expedition time: late April 1998

Earlier in the expedition we’d met the tree named after General Ulysses S Grant in Sequoia National Park. I’d even had my photo taken next to it. I’m the really small figure standing in the snow on the right, looking over my shoulder for mountain lions.

Refer to blog entry:

The General’s path and ours crossed again, when we drove into Appomattox, Virginia. With a name like that we thought we’d found our way into an Asterix book. The area is famous for battles, but not Roman ones. This is where the American Civil War ended. In April 1865, 133 years earlier, the confederate Army, under Robert E Lee surrendered to the Union Commander, Ulysses S Grant at the village of Appomattox Court House.

However, we were about to do battle of another sort – in the bizarrely named Yogi Bear Jellystone Park campsite. It was a name you’d expect to stumble across near Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, not Virginia. The owners were in the process of changing the name to Lake Paradise Family Campground. Paradise it was not. "Lake" could describe the tenting area. It was one of the worst campsites we had seen. The ground was very wet and shaded by trees, which were still dripping from the last rain shower. Away from the trees, the ground sloped so sharply that we knew we’d be rolling into the tent wall all night. And, wherever we pitched the tent, the toilet and shower block were a good five minutes trot away.

When I am camping, the distance to the toilet has a direct correlation to the likelihood of my needing to go there in the middle of the night. I call this "the 500 metre bladder challenge". And, I could pretty well guarantee that at around 3am, and probably in the middle of a rainstorm, my bladder would start sending insistent messages to my brain.

It was going to be impossible to camp there. At this time of the year, we were often the only "primitive" campers in these so-called family sites. A few retirees would swing into the camp, in their large, luxurious RV caravans. Once set up, these RV’s would be lit up like oases of light and warmth, while TH and I shivered in our tent.

Sick of being constantly relegated to inadequate sites, we decided to set up in the RV caravan area, which was largely empty. Most of these sites were also sloping, which wasn’t a problem for the RV’s as they have levelling feet. The only site that wasn’t sloping was by the main camp road. This wasn’t good. But, at least it was close to the ablution block.

We had just finished setting up, when the manager drove past, on her way out. She immediately halted and started shouting at us. She wasn’t very pleased that we had taken a valuable RV site. We made a point a looking around the near empty campground and asked if she was expecting 200 RV’s to arrive at any moment. She said that wasn’t the point and started ranting again. Tired of being charged good money to camp in ill-suited areas, I let her really know about it. Perhaps I’d learned certain tantrum performance tricks from F2. Or, maybe some people just need to be shown some teeth, before they take you seriously. She agreed to let us stay where we were.

It was a hollow victory as, unfortunately, it was a very noisy night. What few vehicles were in the camp seemed make at least one trip out each that night and another one early in the morning. At least in the "primitive" area, no one would have come near us. There was also a railway nearby, with trains every hour, several dogs howling and even something like a chain saw at around 11 pm.

TH always has trouble with noise when he is trying to sleep. I don’t. I might wake up, but I quickly return my slumbers. But, TH can’t get back to sleep, if awoken too often. I call this the revenge of the last-borns, over the first-borns. TH is the eldest in his family and I am the youngest of five.

First-borns get more fuss and photos when they come into this world and the undivided attention of their parents and grandparents for the first year or two. However, they often suffer for the rest of their lives with broken sleep.

It all goes back to the early days in a first-born’s life. They were so cosseted that they never developed a tolerance for noise. Their over-protective parents would tip toe around as soon as the first-born was put to bed. Later in life, first-borns can almost find it impossible to sleep when there is any noise.

In contrast, by the time the last-borns arrive, nobody cares about keeping quiet, especially if there is several other children in the house. As such, last-borns in big families, like me, can always sleep in noisy situations. I have been known to drop asleep in rock concerts. And, so, last-borns (who didn’t get so much fussing when they were born) get back at first-borns. Well, that’s the theory according to Eventful Woman, anyway.

However, TH gets his own back on me. He has a bladder bred for endurance, and never has to get up in the night.

In the morning, we were well pleased to shake the dust off our sandals and leave Appomattox to its history.

© Eventful Woman, 2006
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