As I broke camp in Innsbruck (a “5 wow” city), it occurred to me that my camping routine had become exceedingly tedious. First, I had to find a place to pitch a tent (in a farm, a field, a park or wherever); then piece it together and then take it apart, sweep it off, roll it up and pack it up … like I said, tedious!
I could never find any virtue in any of that. Necessity? Sure! Virtue? Nope!
This occurred to me again as I drove over a mountain pass somewhere west of Liechtenstein (a microscopic, double-landlocked country near the headwaters of the Rhine) on the way from Innsbruck to Zermatt (where that mighty granite phallus they call The Matterhorn rises).
A full moon had seduced me into driving late that night. It roamed a cloudless sky speckled with so many stars it looked like someone scattered fistfuls of diamonds on a dark blue velvet carpet. The snow capped Alpine peaks stood like tall sentinels with white fur hats guarding them.
The mild temperature invited windows-down driving. The complete absence of traffic encouraged carefree motoring. The light from the moon made navigation on the two lane road simple and sure.
An hour or so before midnight I reached the crest of a pass where an expanse of field hosted some cattle and a small brick barn. That’s when I my anti-tent-camping epiphany hit full force.
“To hell with the tent! To hell with it! To hell with it! Who needs it anyway? It’s nothing but a pain in the butt!” I ranted as I pulled to the side of the road, grabbed my sleeping bag, jumped the fence and headed toward the barn.
The barn turned out to be a feeding station for cattle. It was square with a high, pitched roof and walls about fifteen foot or so in length. Tall, arched openings allowed the cows to poke their heads into the barn to feed on the hay piled inside.
I tossed my sleeping bag in, hopped through one of the windows and jumped up on the hay which was about half the height of the barn. I laid down resting my head on the palms of my hands and sunk until I felt as if I were literally floating on a cloud.
All around me I could see the snow-covered tips of Alpine peaks framed in the arched feeding windows. The bright full-moon-sky was made even brighter by the rivers of stars. Complete silence enveloped the place interrupted occasionally by a soft clanging of a bell hanging on a slow moving cow.
I mused as I drifted off to sleep “Neither king nor potentate has enjoyed so fine a night as this since the dawn of humankind!”
Since that evening I’ve often thought that if, after we leave this life, we could choose a place in which to take our eternal rest, I’d choose that barn where I’d lay as if floating on hay, serenaded by cowbells on slow moving heifers, gazing at a golden moon drifting through a firmament filled with an infinity of dancing stars.
Ah! What a superb final resting place that would be … and one without a troublesome tent in sight!
Coming next! Driving Around Europe Without A Map, Part 12 … BLOWOUT IN BOLOGNA
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