23 March 2009


Stay a while, I wish to tell you a story.  It's not a long story, but it is filled with happiness, embarrassment, laughter, disappointment, steak, and 150 miles of driving.

First, the situation demands that I set the scene for you.  Allow me to elucidate.  My brother in law is departing for college in less than a week, which gave us this weekend as the last opportunity to go on a long awaited campout.  He and I don't deviate from the norm; we go to the same place each time.  Saves time and effort, see, we're too lazy to find anyplace else and heaven knows if they have a place to cook steak.

Which, I might add, is the sole reason for going on these adventures.  Steak hardly tastes better than when it's cooked over a fire.  And if dirt or charcoal happens to intrude upon it's seared precipice, so be it.  I will never turn down a steak cooked while camping.

Being the zealous campers (and grillers) that we are, we wanted to be prepared for a full evening.  We called upon two other friends to accompany us for the weekend trip.  Daniel and Andy are their names, they need no further introduction (as they will become integral parts of the story further below).

Daniel agreed that he would obtain the steak necessary for the campout.  Seeing that I worked until 6pm on Friday, I would have very little time to actually purchase anything.  However, I digress.  I did seek out the necessary firewood earlier that day during my lunch break.  As I related to each of them later that day, when I asked the friendly Home Depot representatives whether I might obtain firewood at that location, they proceeded to circle me about in raucous laughter.  I happened to be wearing a t-shirt that said "Albany", so one of the workers supposed I was from New York, and didn't know any better. I let him believe that supposition.  It was great until he said he was from there as well, and wondered what part I lived in.

Yes, it was 109 degrees outside that day.  But, I still needed the firewood.  Not happening at Home Depot, I left, tail between my legs.

Anyway, where was I?  Ah yes, Daniel purchased the needed steak for me, and I was ever so grateful.  Silly me also forgot to tell my brother in law, Matt, that Daniel had agreed to get the steak.  So, of course, we had a double helping of steak for our journey.  How much steak could we have possibly brought, you ask?

Nine pounds.  Count it.

That was roughly 28 ounces per person.  Two and a half pounds, or so.  Give or take some ounces.  My math, she is no good, see?

Let's just allay any false pretenses and resolve to be honest, here.  Nothing went right during this entire campout.  In fact, I would not even call it a campout.  Here's why. 

We were all to pick up my brother in law on the way to the campsite, seeing as how he lived on the opposite end of the Valley than us.  We just figured it would save time.  That was what we thought, at least.

I asked him to meet us at the Wendy's restaurant at Pima Road and the 101 freeway.  When we got there, we noticed that there was, in fact, no Wendy's, so we proceeded three miles north to determine if it was slightly out of our way.  Nothing there.  We called him back, and to make (this story) short(er), we figured out that there was not one Pima exit, but two Pima exits, and he was at the one nearly 15 miles away from us.  Undaunted, we sallied forth to that location to obtain the final piece of our four-person puzzle.

By now, it was severe dusk, so we needed to make it to the campsite post-haste.  It was a car ride full of laughter and joking, with one of the jokes a passing thought that it would be hilarious if the campsite did not allow fires.

Let me say that it was not hilarious that the campsite did not allow fires. 

Wait.  Allow me to add further color and context to this matter.  The sign actually read "NO FUMAR MADERA". For those of you who do not speak Spanish, that reads "NO SMOKING WOOD".  Great. 

This was one of those moments when I kept looking back at the sign, hoping to read a different message, or at least an additional message that would give us some hope for the ceremonious grilling of steak.  None ever came.  I decided to take the point at that point, and turned the car around to head toward Fountain Hills.  On the way there, we found another campsite, which was also closed due to the fire hazard. 

Can I say that Arizona sucks for camping?  Thank you.

Further along in our car ride, we passed through Fountain Hills, chowing down on Lay's potato chips, pork rinds, and Gatorade.  None of us wished to stray from our path to venture into the side roads of Fountain Hills to find a park with a grill. Although I did offer the sum of $25.00 to any passenger who would knock on a random door and ask the resident if we could borrow their grill.  Andy took me up on that offer, but I chickened out.

For some reason, we decided to head in the exact opposite direction of where we were headed and drive to Mesa.  During this portion of our adventure, Andy began to wane as he lost hope of ever eating (or leaving the car).  He saw a sign that said "Cold Stone Creamery" and beckoned to us to head in that direction.

"That's the corporate office, Andy", I said. 

"You're telling me you think there's no ice cream there?", he retorted.  At that, the whole of us lost control and began laughing hysterically.  If this does not seem funny to you as you read it, it can only be because of the lack of context.  In other words, you had to have been there.

We made it to Mesa in one piece, with several mentions of the fact that we were SO glad that we had nine lbs of meat in our trunk.  Actually, the number varied the entire evening, with numbers reaching as high as 983 lbs.  It honestly felt like that much meat.  The trunk felt like it was laboring my car.

Not to be detered from actually cooking this steak, we fired up Matt's grill in his backyard.  The meat that Daniel brought was so large that it did not fit on the grill.  I noticed at this point that the steak looked a little...marbled.  That's being kind.  These cuts had more gristle on them than meat.  Faithful that we would be rewarded for our efforts of the evening, I believed the majority of it would be cooked off and we would be left with the tender remains of rib eye greatness.

Each one of us chewed through 27 ounces of fat.  There's really nothing else I can say.  It was horrifying.

We each sat on the couch, one by one, utterly dejected at the final product of the nights' travails.  I looked over at Daniel, he returned the look and slouched further into the sofa. 

"I'm hungry", he said.  We lost it again.  Laughter rung through the house like a choir of recess kids.

So, we got back in the car again and drove down the road, looking for anything that was still open (it was 11:45pm).   Finally, (and I mean FINALLY) we found a Village Inn that was still open and headed inside. 

The waiter took our orders for breakfast, and we managed to inform him about a portion of our evening.  He summed it up quite handily for us when we were finished describing it:

"What were you doing with that much meat?"

Again, the laughter broke through.  I looked around the restaurant and saw that the rest of the patrons were rolling their eyes at our antics, but we didn't care.  We had one of the most memorable nights in a long time.  This relation of this story simply does not do it enough justice.  I think we'd all agree that we'd do it again in a heart beat.

Oh, and Daniel:  I hear Impact Auto Body is looking for a new "mechanic".  Your attire in the car would be entirely appropriate for the interview that I scheduled for you.


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