I have always been a huge fan of camping, experiencing the great outdoors, being out in nature, sitting beside that campfire in the peace and quiet.
It’s one of the things I look forward to every year. Now, I know many have converted to all the comforts of home RVs, but I’m still a tent camper. After all, I’m not out there for weeks at a time. It’s a weekend, a couple of days, and I really do go just for the peace and quiet. During dragon boat racing season, pre-pandemic, many of us on the team camped at any of the races that were in more remote locations. Being dragon boat racers, we were in bed early, not there to party!
One of the races was at Sprout Lake, a gorgeous spot on Vancouver Island. My daughter and I had booked a camp spot at the provincial campground for two nights. We pulled in and set up the tent, the stove, everything. One of our fellow teammates, who had pulled in a day earlier and was camping on the other side of the campground, said she was exhausted because the neighbors from hell had kept her awake with incessant noise and an abrupt seven a.m. wakeup call as they cranked up a loud heavy rock tune that she now hated.
How many of you have had a neighbor from hell who cranks his or her music with heavy base, disrupts all the peace and quiet, has no respect for anyone, and is a general nuisance, period? I’m pretty sure everyone can raise a hand and say, yes, been there and hope to never experience that hell again. Well, it turns out these neighbors from hell were an older couple. When I say older, I mean they were likely in their late sixties, early seventies, in very poor health, and the lady used a walker. They had apparently lost their home and were living in a tent trailer, moving around from camp spot to empty camp spot. That particular night would be our turn, as they had moved their tent trailer to the spot right beside ours, as it was the only spot left.
When the park warden came around to collect the camp fees, I had a word with her about the couple and the warning I had received about their incessant over-the-top noise. She assured me she would stay on top of them and make sure they remained quiet, but did I walk away feeling reassured? Not in the least, considering that as soon as she drove away, they fired up their generator, which was noisy and clunky, and turned their loud music on. I was already thinking this was going to be painful.
Sure enough, as my daughter and I were in our tent that night, trying to fall asleep, we could hear them arguing next door, slurring their words because they were drinking a lot. The older lady fell out of the tent trailer with her walker and carried on, howling, and he fell out on top of her. Now, when I say they were both drunk, I mean they were three sheets to the wind, falling-down drunk.
The park warden did her final rounds for the night not long after and came in yelling, “What is going on here?” I couldn’t hear all the excuses they piled on her, but I had my hand over my face, at a loss for words. We had to be up really early, like, before six a.m., because we were racing in the morning. At that point, it was past the eleven p.m. quiet hour, which, if you don’t know, refers to the rule that visitors are supposed to be absolutely quiet in a provincial park between eleven p.m. and seven a.m.—though, come to think of it, camping seems to have been getting noisier and noisier lately, with more people playing their music.
But let’s go back to the park warden, a young lady, early twenties. She ordered them to shut off their generator and shut the music off. Then there was the drinking. We could hear the beer bottles clinking, the cans getting kicked over. It was quiet for a moment as we heard the park warden drive away, and I lay there and shut my eyes, thinking I might finally get some sleep. But not five minutes later, the generator was fired up, and they were caterwauling back and forth with their drunken loud talking. Then the music started, just loud enough that it was going to keep me awake.
At some point, you would think they would need sleep, considering their age and their apparent bad health, but the noise of the generator seemed to go on all night. By five a.m., I was exhausted and a little beyond pissed, because now the noise was coming from a really loud radio. So I climbed out of my sleeping bag, slipped on a heavy black coat because June in the mountains is cold, pulled on a ballcap, and shoved my feet in my shoes. As I crawled out of the tent, my daughter said, “Mom, be nice.” Yes, she was still awake too, because sleep was something we hadn’t gotten much of.
I think I grunted in response as I stepped out into the darkness. I flicked on my flashlight and made my way over to the campsite next door, where he was sitting in their small SUV, windows up and the radio blasting, and I walked over and tapped on his window. When he rolled it down, there was a moment of alarm on his face. Apparently, he thought I was the head of parks, likely from my heavy black coat, ball cap, and pissed-off expression.
I just went with it and said, “Shut it down—now. There are people trying to sleep here. You’ve been carrying on all night.”
He, thinking I was in charge there, started to explain that he was deaf in one ear and hard of hearing, and he needed to hear the fishing report…
“Shut it off now,” I cut in, making a motion with my hand to cut the noise before he could finish his mile-long list of excuses.
His hand went right to the radio to shut it off, and he shut off his vehicle, too, as it was also running. He said nothing else, and neither did I.
I walked away, back to our camp, knowing there was no way I would be getting any sleep now, so I put on coffee. We had to be down at the race site in less than two hours. As soon as seven a.m. hit, not even a second past, as we were just making our way out of our camp spot to the race site, the neighbors from hell fired up their generator and cranked their heavy rock music really loud.
The day was long and the racing hard, especially on little sleep. When we packed up after the races and returned to our camp spot, which we had paid two nights for, the elderly couple were drunk. They had beer cans filling a picnic table, the generator was running, and the music was still cranked. After searching for the park warden and realizing she was nowhere to be found, we packed up our gear and made the long trek home, because there was no way I was staying for another sleepless night.
The only thing worse than having a neighbor from hell while camping or holidaying is having a disruptive neighbor who lives right next door to you every day, every night, one you can never get away from.
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Luke’s questions have brought trouble back with him onto US soil, all the way to his hometown—and ultimately, his quest might put his family in the line of fire.
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