By Jackie DesForges
After planning this weekend getaway for months, saving some extra money, changing the oil in my car, and driving through a thunderstorm for three hours, we finally arrive at the bed and breakfast. Our room is decorated entirely in pink and green and smells strongly of potpourri. The bed looks like a massive, fluffy, pink pastry. We grin at each other.
As soon as we set our bags down, we hear the rain begin. Our smiles drop in a similar manner. We look out the window. We had planned to spend the evening canoeing out to the middle of the lake with a blanket and some wine, to get out on the water at its quietest point, to read and play Scrabble on the dock while the sun sets below the horizon.
With no particular plan B in mind, we walk half-heartedly back down the stairs to the enclosed wraparound patio. The porch swing is empty and so we sit; we get close and wrap the blanket around ourselves. The storm is loud already, considering it seemed to come so unexpectedly. I am still not used to the Midwest’s fickle weather.
The porch is the most massive one I’ve seen, with finished wood floors and white wooden railings. The rocking chairs and wicker tables are mismatched, and there are three of those half-circle American flags draped over the railings in front. Someone has left the hose on, despite the rain. The porch isn’t as stereotypically decorated as the interior of the house, which is almost elaborate in contrast. Pieces of boats and oars hung on the walls, an old trunk for a coffee table, more rocking chairs. There is antique cabinet holding board games that we will later investigate after a few beers. Nothing matches, but everything looks like it was made specifically for a bed and breakfast in Wisconsin.
We hear a sudden round of giggling at the other end of the porch. There is a group of elderly people sitting in a circle in the rocking chairs, laughing and drinking cheap beers from a 30 pack. I see the woman who is causing all of the laughter; she is telling a very animated story complete with vivid hand motions, and a slightly slurred voice. I look at each of the people in the group and suddenly feel the urge to be in a hostel again, where there is someone my age. I can overhear parts of the story, but not the whole thing. She is talking about getting divorced and the horrific dates she’s had to endure since – I hear a few graphic sexual innuendos, followed by much more giggling. I can’t tell if they all know each other or if it’s just the type of camaraderie that you develop with other travelers when you’re all thrown together in the same house in a new place.
I smile, turning back towards my boyfriend. He squeezes my hand. We watch as the rain batters the porch we’d wanted to lay on, and we can see each end of the canoe rocking up and down, back and forth, as the waves become darker and stronger. A group of jet skiers have taken cover in a nearby boat, and we can hear them shrieking and laughing in the cold rain. I can barely see across the lake, and so it looks like our sightseeing will be restricted to the end of the lawn for now. We are in a very wooded area, everything is green. Maybe it rains like this often. Briefly I wonder if someone is going to turn off the hose.
I sense movement out of the corner of my eye and turn; another couple has joined us on the porch. They are young but not as young as we are. The girl gives me a look that isn’t friendly. I wonder if it’s because we have replaced them as the youngest couple here, or maybe it’s just because we took the porch swing. Maybe she blames us for the rain. Whatever the reason they are quiet, like us. The only ones laughing are the elderly group across the porch, crunching the finished beer cans beneath their shoes. One of the men is looking intently at that woman telling the stories, laughing every time she does, at one point reaching out to touch her arm.
I hold the blanket more tightly around us. I want to get out and explore, I want it to stop raining, I want it to feel like I’m traveling. A part of me also wants to feel like that group of people, the old people with old names like Betty and Ernest and Leonard – I want to know what it’s like to feel content with traveling somewhere just for the sake of sitting on a porch to tell a good story. Never have I traveled somewhere for the promise of a comfortable bed, or a large porch swing. Never have I traveled somewhere just to sit. For me travel is still too new and too fast-paced.
My boyfriend squeezes my hand again and we glance at the young couple sitting near us. They are still silent, watching the storm like we are. The woman yawns and for a moment it makes her look old. Seeing her yawn makes me yawn, and I wonder if I look old, too.
After a few more moments, the rain stops. I glance at the other couple. They seem hesitant to move, as if this is a lark and the rain will suddenly start up again. I see a faint patch of blue sky above the lake and my heart leaps. The jet skiers waste no time; they are back on the lake and still shrieking. We get off the porch swing and head back inside to put the blanket away, eager to get out and explore while we can. Before I close the door I glance back at the elderly group to see what they are going to do.
They are still laughing. I hear the popping sound of another beer being opened. The old man laughs quietly and touches the woman on the arm again. She is deep into another story and her facial expressions are elaborate. Another couple is cuddled together on a wicker bench, holding hands, and there is a woman sitting next to them whose cheeks are deeply flushed. I don’t think any of them have noticed that the rain has stopped.
Jackie DesForges is a writer from Los Angeles currently living in Chicago. To date she has served as a student ambassador in England and France, a volunteer in Mexico, an art student on the Riviera, and a fledgling travel writer in Edinburgh. Currently she spends her time blogging about travels past and present at Misadventures of Travel Girl and saving her pennies for her next great adventure overseas.