Hot Summer Nights

My wife and I spent the summer driving around the country with our two youngest kids. I shared a quick recap of our adventures HERE. Now it’s time for some of the nitty-gritty details…

When I was a kid, I dreamed of having a treehouse. I could picture it so clearly. It would be so high up, people wouldn’t be able to see it unless they knew what they were looking for. And it would have a TV and a door that locked and a couch to sit on or maybe those cool beanbag chairs. It would have been a grand structure, a treehouse of epic proportions.

Of course, we lived in Southern Idaho, on the outside edge of high desert. This meant that there were fields and orchards and plateaus. And if you didn’t plant anything and pay really close attention to it, then the landscape was brown and unforgiving. There were rattlesnakes and scorpions and miles and miles of irrigation ditches that were the lifeblood of the farming community. In other words, there were very few trees.

There were two in my grandma’s yard, big, leafy cottonwoods with branches that spread in a wide arc from the trunk. They provided relieving shade in the dead of summer and sprinkled little white balls of fluff over the landscape. They were beautiful and strong and perfect.

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Not my grandma’s tree, but a nice cottonwood nonetheless.

Of course, the perfect tree was where my dreams were halted. For a variety of reasons, my treehouse never happened.

This summer, I had the opportunity to correct this oversight for a brief moment.

Yes, we spent the night  in a treehouse. Okay, half a night. More about that later.

As I planned our stops, I booked a treehouse in Helen, Georgia for one night.

Helen, Georgia, USA Bavarian Town

Some thoughts about Georgia before I go on to talk about the treehouse:

  • Georgia felt really good. On a visceral level, the energy in Georgia spoke to me. I could live there. I will definitely visit again.
  • Helen, GA, where our treehouse was, is a small Bavarian village. This means that it would fit better in Germany than Georgia, but it was lovely nonetheless.
  • I had a chance to meet up with a friend and enjoy some sweet tea in the shade.
  • Everybody is more polite in the South.

Now, for the treehouse. It was smaller than my grand, yet non-existent, childhood treehouse. It was also hotter. The thing about Georgia, and the rest of the South, is the humidity. Stepping outside is like stepping into a sauna. Your glasses fog up and everything gets sticky. It’s disconcerting.

At night, the heat clings to the air like a determined party guest who doesn’t recognize he’s well and truly worn off his welcome. Remember, I grew up in Southern Idaho. High desert. The desert is HOT, but it’s also dry. And as hot as it is during the day, it’s just as cool at night, once the sun sets.

Not true in the South. Holding out for sundown doesn’t help because then it’s just dark and hot and sticky instead of light and hot and sticky. In other words, sleeping is a goddamned contact sport, with you pitted against the elements.

There is rain, of course. Beautiful, big, fat drops, a deluge that soaks through your clothes in minutes. The kind of rain that should cool you down, and would if you were anywhere else in the US. But not in the South, and not in the mountains of Georgia.

Still, I stood in the rain, arms outstretched, face tipped up to the sky, eyes closed, mouth open, and let the rain soak me. And it felt like taking a shower.4294518-16x9-940x529

The treehouse was completely off grid. No lights. No AC. No fan. No toilet (except the composting one across the way). To access the treehouse, we had to take a mule.

mule

No, not that kind of mule. The motorized kind, with a steering wheel, four seats, and storage room in the back.

2011-kawasaki-mule4010trans4x4diesela

The mule was our savior for a good portion of the time. It went fast enough to generate a slight breeze. Yeah, the air was still hot, but it was moving. Somehow, that was better. In retrospect, we were all probably suffering from heatstroke and it affected our judgment.

Nonetheless, the mule was fun. We drove on forgotten (by everyone except the owners of the treehouse place) forestry trails, got into a slight skirmish with a weird little bus-thing that was coming the opposite direction. We may or may not have crashed into them.

The kids especially loved the mule. Yeah, we let them drive. They learned how to shift, the importance of a parking break, and the fun of the accelerator. During the rest of the trip, “Can we get a mule?” was a frequently asked question. As per our usual, we said, “Maybe.”

Now, back to the treehouse. It was hot. Really, really hot. Even with the windows open, there was a distinct lack of cross breeze. And, remember, no AC, no fan. Just me and Tara laying there sweaty and sticky and trying like hell not to touch each other because that just made things even hotter.

Around 11, after standing in the rain too many times to count and subsequently cursing the heat, Tara and I came to the conclusion that Georgia hated us. Or maybe just the treehouse. Regardless, we were out.

In the dark and the rain, we packed our stuff into the mule, woke up the kids, drove back to the car, and dropped off the key at the main site. Then we got into our happy SUV and left Georgia.

But, Georgia hasn’t left us yet. It’s still in my heart and on my mind. Some day, I will go back. And when I do, I’ll make sure the room has AC.

 

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