“We take it for granted we know the whole story – we judge a book by its cover and read what we want between selected lines.”
As I stood at the counter listening to “Rita” tell the couple before me the rules and regulations of the campground, I couldn’t help but feel anxious and annoyed. As I moved toward the counter to book my site, Rita flashed me a big smile and she was missing her two front teeth. “Great,” I thought, “this campground looks like its seen it’s days and so has Rita – been around the block I’m sure.” I put down my visa and barely listened to what she was saying and back to the trailer I went. In fairness to Rita I was really annoyed with my husband and I was taking it out on Rita by being withdrawn and moody. I wasn’t myself and in fairness to me, it had been a particularly long day.
I woke up that morning to the sound of the truck moving under the trailer to hitch up. Drew poked his face in the door and said, “wake up baby we’re out of here.” My hair was all over the place and after not sleeping for three nights I had finally fallen asleep in the wee hours of the morning and I was deep into it. Half asleep, I stumbled down the stairs out of the upper bunk and I threw on some pants, shirt and shoes and made my way to the truck where I crashed as Drew drove out of Barkerville. We decided to drive from Barkerville to Kamloops and spend a night and then head to Cranbrook the next morning. By the time we reached Kamloops we had been driving for about six hours. We had no reservations in Kamloops and to our surprise we couldn’t find a campground in the heart of Kamloops. I kept telling Drew to stop and ask someone but he refused, kept driving in circles. Finally, I insisted he stop and he turns to me and says – “why stop, I find these locals useless?” I said “ok – keep driving in bloody circles and see where that gets us – talk about useless.” He finally stops and we find out there is a campground two minutes from us and the campground is attached to a wild animal reserve park. As we drive I see a big sign for a campground and an animal reserve park that says that the campground is just a few miles down the road. Drew suddenly makes a sharp turn because he sees this run down campground on his right and heads there. “Where are you going, the campground is a few more miles.” I don’t think he even heard me as he drives straight into this campground that is essentially the kind of campground we’ve all driven by and say to ourselves “thank God I’m not staying there.” Drew pulls up, jumps out talks to Rita and then comes back to the truck and says, “go pay Rita – $36.00 for the night and it includes hot showers, full hook-up.” I was stunned, he didn’t even talk to me just grabbed it. I was about to say something or more like I was about to have a huge fight with my husband and I looked over to see Rita standing near. I didn’t want to be rude so I shut my mouth and walked to the office.
After I paid for the site, Rita says to me “check out is 11:00 am but feel free to stay as long as you need tomorrow.” “If you need to sleep in, sleep in she says, I don’t push people out of here, I want them to feel like they’re at home.” I have to admit she sounded very sincere and as I walked away I was feeling guilty for thinking so harshly. I mentioned in Negative Ways Baby that I hadn’t had a shower in four days as the showers in Barkerville campground were $1.00 per minute for a cold shower. I boiled water and sponged bathed in the trailer instead. I was dying for a hot shower and Rita told me that she doesn’t charge for showers and that her bathrooms are squeaky clean as she believes in pure hospitality. “Clean bathrooms and free showers is something I can give from my heart,” she says. The first thing I do upon entering the trailer is grab a change of clothes, soap, shampoo, towel and head to the bathroom. The bathrooms were located right beside the trailer and housed in a mobile trailer. The first thing I noticed upon entering the bathroom was that I could probably lick the floors they were so clean and the same cleanliness was applied to the sinks, the toilets and the showers. The shower was lined with a cute shower curtain giving it a bit of a homey feeling. I dump my shower stuff on the counter and I notice by the back of the sink Rita put little china knickknack flowers, just like the ones my mother use to leave in her bathroom. I jump into the shower, not only is the shower hot, it is hot from the moment that you turn the shower on and no timer to turn the shower off. Not having a full shower for four days, this shower felt like I was in heaven. I was singing and praising the name Rita while I was in the shower.
That evening we had plans to visit some friends who are now living in Kamloops. We head over to their house and the first thing Kathy says to me upon greeting her is, “are you staying in the wild life reserve campground?” “No, we are staying in a little gem just down the hill from there, you know the one by the train tracks and it’s a mix of mobile homes and trailers.” The look on Kathy’s face was priceless and she says “Oh God you’re staying there?” “Ger,” she says, they are staying at the campground down the hill, you know the older campground?” I could tell what Kathy really wanted to say was, “you know, the ones on the other side of the tracks.” The look that passed between Kathy and her husband said, “are you two crazy?” “Well I said, Rita keeps some pretty decent showers and clean bathrooms and right now I’m grateful to be staying somewhere with hot and free showers.” The conversation turns to the boys and what we’ve all been doing for the past few months and no more is mentioned about the campground. We got back to the campground after midnight and all was quiet. Slowly and quietly we made our way to bed and we all crashed and fell asleep before our heads hit the pillow. With all the negative feelings I had in Barkerville and no sleep, I was finally in a better frame of mind and welcomed the peaceful sleep. About two in the morning I woke up to a rumble and I wasn’t sure what the sound was, I could feel it more than hear it, the ground seemed to be moving and then I realized it was a train coming through and that damn train sounded as if it was going right through the campground. One of the houses we lived in when I was a kid was not far from the train tracks. Not quite as close as the tracks by the campground, but I could hear those trains at night when I was a little girl. I learned to use the rhythms of the train to help me sleep and as the train passed our trailer park the rhythms of the tracks lulled me back to sleep and I did not wake up until the next morning, refreshed and ready to go.
I dropped by to see Rita the next morning to tell her we were on the move and thank her for her hospitality. I ended up having a half hour conversation with Rita and as I was leaving she called out, “I hope all you folks drop by here again if you ever come back by this way.” I called out “for sure Rita, if I’m heading through this town again, I’ll stop in to see you, your showers are to die for.” With that comment she gave me a huge smile showing me the gap in her mouth where she’s missing her two front teeth and I realized I quite liked Rita, I like a woman who is who she is, been around the block and back and she’s not afraid to show it. Her book cover might be a little rough, worn and weathered, but her inner pages are filled with warmth, honesty and generosity.