We weren’t intending to stop at Starved Rock on this trip, but I love Starved Rock and don’t get enough chances to go out there. Starved Rock was the first place Scott and I camped together at. We camped in January, we were the only campers in the entire campground and almost all of the waterfalls were completely frozen ice sculptures. That was in January 1997. The next and last time I had the opportunity to hike around and camp in the area was with three teachers during the summer of 2003. It was nice to be able to share the experience with the whole family this time. Brooke loved the waterfall we saw. We are also excited to report that even with all those stairs she never cried or complained once, not even when she almost fell off a bridge. She was close to crying, but then I slipped with Cody in the backpack and we almost went splat, so she helped momma to remember to “walk it off.” Scott just had shoulder surgery last month so he was not a candidate for carrying the backpack today. Although, another gentleman suggested Scott should take a turn too.
I suppose I should get back to the title of the post. We didn’t plan to go to Starved Rock, thus we didn’t have camping reservations. Even at 3:30 on a Friday most places were filled up, which led us to Papa Murphy’s Campground/Bar. I would really rather not remember or relive last night by writing about it, but Scott thinks it should be included. At the campground we had a great neighbor from Skokie, a father and son. The son was near eight years old. He was excited to be camping and eager to play with the kids, which was a great distraction for our little guys. They even invited us over for s’mores. To which Brooke could only say an enthusiastic yes. It took the kids a while to settle down. I started getting Cody ready for bed and read him Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? at 7:30. Brooke voluntarily came to the tent shortly after 8. Due to the bright night and a few campground parties, everyone fell asleep sometime between 10 and 10:30. The campground parties carried on until close to 1, but then it was nice and quiet. Even the cicadas must have been napping.
2:40 - “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” The music from the bar was so loud it hurt my ears and we were at least 300 feet from the bar. The kids and Scott stirred a little, but I seemed to be the only one woken up by the noise. I was frustrated at yet another disruption to everyone’s sleep, but I didn’t want to go into a bar in my p.j.s and ask them to turn it down. Plus the music selection wasn’t that bad if only it weren’t so loud. Then “It’s Raining on Sunday” I think by Keith Urban started to play just as the rain started to fall. It was only little drips at first and then dribble, dribble, drop started falling faster. As I was reciting Dr. Seuss’ Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? in my head I realized I would have to get up and put on the tent fly. Then I thought, well if I’m going to get up I might as well ask them to turn the music down too. So, while I put on the fly, only a little, like an umbrella, but not all the way so as not to block the cooling breeze, my stomach started to tie in knots and my adrenaline started flowing.
I heard other people stirring putting on their flies as well. I walked in the back door of the bar since it was wide open. I got a few strange looks, and I marched right over to the very tall bartender and asked why the music was turned on outside. I also explained that I had two small children who were trying to sleep. He said it shouldn’t be on, but went to check out the problem. Then a drunk-out-of-her-mind bewildered looking lady said something I couldn’t understand. I should have just ignored her and went on my way. Instead I asked if she was talking to me. Rather, I shouted because it was so loud in the bar, the only way to communicate was to shout. She said she was the owner and if there were a problem she would know about it, so there must not be a problem. I was so frustrated with the fact that this obviously incompetent woman was in charge of the safety and comfort of where my family was currently staying that I let her know about the problem that obviously was happening, I invited her to step outside and hear it for herself, and I may have also mentioned what I thought of her campground and that I wanted my money back. She just stared at me with the same dumbfounded unintelligible look. Realizing I had said my peace, and knowing that she wasn’t going to be of any assistance I left the bar blood still boiling. Now, I’m not sure if it was the sheer fear of entering a bar in my p.j.s or the momma bear in me mad that my kids weren’t getting a good rest, or just the disappointment at the lack of common courtesy from a business owner, or maybe even the fact that I was sleep deprived and woken up at 2:40 in the morning, but I know you get more bees with honey than vinegar. My mom worked very hard trying to teach me to say please and thank you, sorry mom.
After I walked around a bit to get my heart to stop pounding out of my chest I laid down and thought about how the conversation should have gone, “Good Morning! Did you happen to know the music is suddenly playing outside? You didn’t? Well, thank you so much for looking into for me. I really appreciate it. Have a great day!”
I was thankful that the music did get turned off, and that it was that simple. Until I was outside adjusting the fly some more, since the rain decided to get more serious. Scott woke up and asked why I was playing with the fly. I cut our conversation short with a quick explanation, “The owner is looking for me. I complained about the music, and she looks mad.” I could hear the owner going from campsite to campsite waking up anyone who wasn’t already awake from her music at 3:30 in the morning looking for the b**** who was complaining. I quickly ducked into the tent praying that she couldn’t hear my heart beating as loudly as I could.
It was bad enough that we were stuck camping where we were. It made things worse when the music randomly came on outside. However, it was a whole different playing arena when the owner instead of apologizing and looking into the problem decided ten minutes after she processed the conversation to come hunt me down with her buddy and tell me what she thought of me. She was going from tent to tent looking for a woman with two small children. Scott had gone outside to finish putting on the fly, and she remembered right away, “Oh yeah, you have a wife and two kids.” The owner’s friend thought she knew Scott too, “I just had a shot with this guy!” Which would have been interesting as Scott was rolling around in the tent for the last five hours.
The next question the owner asked was whether or not I was the c*** who walked in her bar and complained. She also kept asking if he had anyone else in the tent, even though she herself just mentioned that he had a wife and two kids. Scott repeated several times after she asked that he had a wife and two kids sleeping in the tent. He just kept trying to derail her politely with small talk. He also told her multiple times he didn’t know anything about the situation, he had just woken up. The owner was so loud and obnoxious, she eventually did wake everyone in the tent up. Brooke finally said, “Momma who’s out there yelling?” The owner left after that, but not before her friend shouted, “What did you expect camping at a bar?”
That would have been a valid point, had Scott not clarified with owner at 3:30 pm, before we checked in, if it was a campground that he should bring his two small children to. She assured him that it wouldn’t get loud outside the bar, except for Saturday night when there would be a bachelor party.
The owner left still looking for the woman that complained. I was afraid to fall asleep thinking she would try to do something to the van or worse the tent and kids. We woke up and packed up lickety-split at 7:30.
Lesson learned. No camping behind bars, and requests made at 3:30 in the morning are better left until after five full hours of sleep, especially when talking to a drunk campground owner.