Day 9: Saturday, October 8
I woke up to a very drenched campground. No it did not rain, although it appeared to. It was from the humidity as morning dew latched onto everything. If you had paper anything left out consider it garbage. I had to take a long walk to the port-a-potty as nature called to me. With the coolness in the air and the wet grass and hay on the ground I wish it was a lot closer. I think I mustered somewhere around 4- 4 1/2 hours of sleep. That is what I usually get prior to a work day, so I was good to go. Others were talking around the campfire still burning slightly. I moved close, but not close like the night before. I learned my lesson the hard way. My legs looked like yesterday’s pan-seared spam.
There was a lot of teasing going on at the three amigos camper as we tried to convince them to stay and enjoy the festivities. It was a sham to see them go because none of them wanted to leave, but a sense of responsibility took them away. Someone heisted the hitch for their trailer so their was some amusement to that, but once it was located, I mean returned, they left us behind. A great bunch of guys. I am glad I got to spend some quality time with them all.
As the day progressed my other chilehead family members started to arrive. The Hudds, CaJohn Hard, Flaming Joe and Red Hot Robin. Sounds like I am friends with members of the porn industry doesn’t it? It was good to see Joe and Robin again. Scott Roberts arrived with his two boys who took right to the fire. They took personal pride in keeping it burning. More and more people kept coming throughout the day and the fields filled up nicely. More food was prepared and shared, and you couldn’t have enough of the spicy stuff whatever it was. The guy who made the frittata the day before also cooked up another great dish, a pork loin with some roasted peppery exterior that was killer. Also some Vietnamese yams that tasted great on the grill. It was the last picture I got to take before the battery went dead on me.
I was running low on something with caffeine to keep me awake, so I decided to make a run to CVS and fill my cooler up. Problem was, my car did not start. The battery was dead. Probably due to the fact that I had my trunk open for hours and the phone charger was plugged in for a while during the previous night. Hudd maneuvered his vehicle around and gave me a jump. At least it did not happen while I was alone on the road. I took off and came back just as the auction and raffle were kicking off.
A big part of every Open Fields is the auction/raffle to raise money for Jim Campbell’s worthy cause, Step It Up For Charity. People come to the fields to donate all kinds of stuff and bid on others. People buy up raffle tickets and Jim and Abby run a little auction of some other stuff in between calling out numbers for the assorted prizes. I was lucky enough to have my name called a few times, and I walked away with some homemade BBQ sauces, jellies, jams, and mustards. What I really wanted was some of Hobby Farmer’s Fire Corn. I have read about how good it was for years, and when I saw it on the table I knew it would be my first pick. I got a basket of 4 bags. The stuff did not disappoint either. Yum yum. The raffle and auction went on for quite a while, but Jim made sure everyone had a prize of some sort. Money was raised for a good cause once again.
Scott had to take his boys back, so he never got to sample my balls. Scott, I know how much you wanted my balls, I guess they will have to wait to next time. He did declare next year would be a full weekend at the fields instead of a 1/2 of a day. After Scott left, the food onslaught began. I made two types of queso dip- one with the new Velvetta Buffalo Wing flavor and one with the Queso ghost pepper cheese. Now not one was extremely spicy. I mixed it with CaJohn’s Macioce Hot Italian Salsa for a great tasting queso. It cooked super fast on the grill. The Meatballs came next and I spread the love to everyone once they were cooked up. I got every penny out of my $12 foo-foo grill.
There was so much food I could not keep up with it. Someone made some meatballs or sausage and spaghetti with garlic bread that was killer. One of my favorite things from the weekend. There was so much food it is tough to remember everything. Just when you couldn’t eat anymore someone heard you burp and more food was thrust in your general direction. Such generous people.
One of the other traditions of Open Fields is that Abby sets up a gaming table for people to play some random game at night. They get lights setup around the table and select a game to play. I joined in and even though I can not recall the name of the game, I had a fun time. This is where I was also introduced to the mystery kitty. A very friendly black cat came crawling our way and wanted to play the game too. If it wasn’t for the lightning fast reflexes of Abby, the game would’ve been over before we were half way done. She kept grabbing the kitty before it pounced onto the gaming table. Eventually the black fur ball was carried a distance away from our game to have fun with some of the other campers.
Once the game was over, I headed back towards the smell of cooking food. CaJohn decided to come out with his toasted green chile cheeseburgers at around midnight. He was churning them out like he was feeding a homeless shelter on Thanksgiving. They were quite good, but it was a little passed feeding time so I couldn’t down the whole thing. I think these were the equivalent to the Open Fields version of White Castle belly bombers. The people that ate the most were buzzed.
It was getting cold fast, so I went to my car to grab my jacket and without me seeing it, the kitty had found it’s way into my car. The last thing I wanted was to have it’s mangy fur all over my car and my allergies killing me from it. I have nothing against cats, but I have a slight allergy that stuffs me up, and I didn’t want to take a chance with it. It was very friendly and as soon as I asked for it to leave it scooted right out. I do not know how it crawled by me, no one else saw it go in too. It might be one of those magical felines better suited for sacrifice during All Hallows Eve. Mwhahahaha!
I hung out by the fire a little, but having learned my lesson I stayed much further away and wore blue jeans just in case. I was quite tuckered and as soon as I got relaxed into the seat I fell asleep. Of course, CaJohn is there with some wise crack about me not making it to the end. At any rate, I said my good nights and made my way back to my car. I was more bundled up than the previous night. It made it more cozy for me under my blankie and I fell asleep as soon as I closed my eyes.
Day 10, Sunday October 9
There was definitely a chill in the air when I woke up, but I felt good and relaxed from my 4 hours of sleep. It was my last day, and I was just a few hours from leaving to head back to Virginia. I didn’t look forward to the drive, but at least I had off Monday for Columbus Day. I would be in no hurry to get back other than to get the trip over and done with. Once the camp started to stir, the big conversation was centered around the black kitty which made itself a home with our group. It cuddled up with Bill and Sandi during the night. Robin was calling for one of us to take the kitty back with them, and she was willing to pay off anyone just to do it. It was clear that Sandi would take the cat if only Bill would warm up to the idea. It was a good cat, but would taking it home be a good idea for anyone? By the time I was ready to head out, no one had decided the kitty’s fate.
CaJohn and I had talked about reuniting with the burger we had from last years Open Fields. On our way to the Airport, we were looking for a place to watch the Vikings play the Lions. We stopped off at Buffalo Wild Wings, but all the tables were taken. We found a brew house in the corner of the shopping lot, so we went there. Lo and behold the Vikings game was on the big screen. I was a happy camper, but who knew it was just a sign that we were about to dine on the greatest burger known to mandkind, the Dude! So it was decided before coming to Open Fields that we would go back to this place and get the Dude again and watch my Vikings again. The target time of departure was around 11:30-12pm to make sure we got there before game time. With the Colts playing at the same time, I was hoping that getting a table would not be a problem.
Butch T was cooking up a seafood fried brunch for everyone with oysters, crab claws, fries, and some other goodies. Lots of sauces to dip things in. I didn’t want to spoil my appetite with too much but I wanted to sample the Mississippi fare. I loved his gator bites from the day before. Other people were sharing other minor fare here and there, but it was time to say my goodbyes, so I made my way around camp to do so. I so hated to be the first to leave Sunday, but the Dude and the open road was calling my name. I had a total blast, but it was over now.
Jim and Abby did a stellar job once again as hosts. People do not realize how much they do and spend on the tent, the port-a-potty, and the necessities to keep this thing going. Jim declared that there would be chiles once again next year. People proved this time around it was never about the chiles, but it couldn’t hurt having them again. The time and cost to run a pepper field is costly, but despite that Jim still wants to do it. Why? I think it is his need to keep on giving. It is in his heart, and it is shared with Abby. They are rare people, and I am happy to be in their circle of friends. I so appreciate them, and for treating me like family. Thank you both very much, and I hope I can do this again next year. Next year starts September 27-Oct 1, 2012. Mark your calendars people. It is a must do for any chilehead.
As CaJohn and I rolled away from the fields, I turned my attention to the last destination of my vacation, the Fireside Brewhouse in Greenwood, IN. It was about 20 minutes from Open Fields, and it wasn’t out of the way at all. Let me explain the dude to you. It is a half-pound burger with Velveeta cheese dipped in beer batter and deep-fried, then topped with grilled jalapeños and onions. They deep-fry the whole damn thing, bun and all. It is the king of all burgers that I have ever experienced. The beer batter coating is similar to the NY Diner-style of onion rings that I grew up with. Very thick, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside prior to breaking through to the burger and cheese in the middle. The inside is gooey and juicy, and to add in the grilled jalapeños and onions only adds to the perfection of this burger. I could not finish the whole thing, so I cut it in half and doggie-bagged the rest for my drive home. Yes I ate it for dinner too. Check out that picture at the top of the page folks. That is the Dude is all it’s glory. Anyone around the Indy area must take this trip to get you one.
CaJohn and I dined like Gods, and I couldn’t ask for a better person to share the experience with. Great company, great burger, and an awesome experience. Plus the Vikings were putting on a scoring clinic on their way to their first and only win of the year. It was a happy moment. It was a shame it was all coming to an end. I had 9 or so hours of driving in front of me, so I said my goodbye to John and took off around 2pm.
As long as the drive was heading home, football kept me company and it went a lot faster than I thought it. I actually thought it might be 11 hours, but with two gas and bathroom stops, I got home by 11pm. It was a trip I probably will never be able to do again because the events might never be back to back again. I would love to make another similar trip, but the likelihood would be extremely hard to accomplish. My hours and days off at work are ready to change next month, and I might not be able to pull it off for those reasons alone. So I will carry the memory to my grave and know how special the whole experience was. Thanks for all those who made my trip great.
*- As a side note, the kitty now dubbed Franklin B. Kitty found a new home with Bill and Sandi Kraft. While Franklin found his happy ending, their other cat, Gomez has taken ill, so I hope he recovers soon. Gomez is the bigger kitty on the left. Franklin takes a flea bath on the right.