Friday, September 23, 2011

Why I Need to Wear a Hat

I went camping last month, the traditional race track/ camping weekend I’ve done with my brother, brother-in-law and friends for nearly twenty years. Things have changed over that time, including the attendees beyond the devoted core. We don’t drink as much as we used to, the cars we are watching are very different and the track has made some major improvements over the years, including actual bathrooms instead of just outhouses. Oh, and now various offspring have been joining us the last few years including, for the first time, my son.

Most of my memories of camping include massive downpours of rain, leaky tents and boring nights spent waiting out the rain in the tent. Our family used to travel to White Pines State Park in North Central Illinois annually. One year a storm blew in late at night and woke us all up. Torrents of rain poured down most of the night and early morning. When it stopped and the light of morning broke, the rain had been so heavy the park rangers had to open the back exit out of the park to let cars out. The fjords where the road to the park ran through the shallow river were deemed impassable to traffic. In college, a one night camping trip with two friends was destroyed by wind and rain which quickly leveled our tent and left us barreling to the nearest covered pavilion for shelter. In all of the years we’ve done the racetrack camping trip, I can only recall one rainless weekend.

And as suspected, my son was not spared rain on his first trip either, although he slept through part of it. As we ended our day at the track, dark clouds rolled into the area, threatening us but never landing. They waiting until we were on the two lane highways over rolling hills headed to the campsite before unleashing. Conveniently, my son fell asleep as the storm hit, tearing leaves and limbs from the trees lining the highway and reducing visibility to nearly nothing. Once I could no longer see my brother-in-law in front of me, I pulled off the road and waited out the storm. The heavy rain lasted fifteen minutes before settling into a slow soaker that lasted three more hours. Thankfully, it was the only rainstorm that weekend.

I always wear a baseball cap for race weekend. Being outside for three straight days exposed to intense sun and my fair skinned Polish and Irish ancestors dictate that I do to keep from turning into a burnt mess and running through multiple bottles of green aloe. Alas, the rain left my hat a stinking mess. When I put it on the next morning, the rank odor nearly dropped me to the ground. Luckily, it only made me stagger. I had just showed so it took me a little while to figure out why I stunk. I ended up throwing it away, a freebee from a game Blackhawks hat that I’d had nearly ten years.

I put on sunscreen, SPF 30 as I always do and tried to hide in the shade when I could. I felt warm by the end of the weekend, but not burnt. It wasn’t until I showed after we got home Sunday night that I realized how burnt I’d gotten. When the hot water hit the top of my head I screamed.

“I burnt the top of my head?” I asked myself.

“You burnt the top of your head,” I answered in my old man voice.

“But I’m not bald. I have a full head of hair.”

“You had a full head of hair. Not anymore. You just can’t see it.”

The mirror in our bathroom has three pieces and if you line them up correctly you can see your own reflection fading into infinity. What you can’t do is see the back of your head.

“I’m going bald?” I asked myself.

“Not exactly. Not Bruce Willis bald. More like David Letterman bald.”

“This sucks. And it hurts. Can I put aloe on it?”

“Only if you want to look silly. It will feel better in a few days.”

It’s really just one more sign of aging, one more side of getting older, one more thing I never had to worry about until now. I know I should focus on the positive, my three year old son surviving his first camping trip, the continuation of our tradition, the fun we had over the weekend, the look on my son’s face when he first saw a racecar speeding past him at one hundred fifty miles an hour, the stories we all shared from previous years (sticker truck and puke tent included), the fact that I have a lot more hair than most of my friends.. And I do appreciate all of that.

But I burnt my head.


Anonymous said...

Welcome to the club. Keep multiple hats in many locations. The coat closet has 5, one at work, two in the car, one in the backpack, two on the road in the trailer and the wife has two in her car.

Buy hats, disposable ones, and freebies so you can toss them without remorse.

Welcome to the club.

Dave said...

Mmm...camping memories....