So I'd known about SERA being this past weekend for about a year, but once again I failed to properly prepare for it. I left the house later than I wanted to Friday night, and didn't get on the road headed towards Cookeville until about 9:45. I still figured I'd make it there by 11:30 or so, since it was only about 90 miles away from my house.
I got about 30 miles away from the house and realized that I had packed everything I'd need for a weekend of caving except for something to sleep on. I only had a sheet that I had shoved into the bottom of my basket of clothes. I had planned to bring my tent, blow up mattress, sleeping bag, pillows, and a comforter just in case the cabin that the Grotto had acquired turned out to be a bad place to sleep, which I had suspicions it might be.
I almost turned around at that point, and I wish I had, because the misery began shortly thereafter. About 15 miles past Lebanon I started going through a pretty heavy thunderstorm, with spectacular lighting strikes to go along with it. A few minutes later, traffic ground down to a crawl, and several emergency vehicles made their way past us on the shoulder. Shortly after that the traffic came to a complete stop. I soon turned off the motor and sat there for a bit, hoping it would start moving along soon.
After twenty minutes of sitting there, I called Marissa and told her about it. After 45 minutes, I got out to see what I could see ahead, and could see some flashing lights. The guy in the car next to me had called 911 and they told him someone had died in the accident ahead, so it was probably going to be a while. Marissa called back and had checked the TDOT site and they were saying it should be cleared up by 6am! Ugh. I found out later that it involved a motorcyclist who had been hit from behind, then thrown into the left lane where he was run over by an 18 wheeler.
I sat there for another 45 minutes, then I got my flashlight out and started scouting the median to see if it was possible to get across. There was no culvert or major ditch, so it seemed like it was possible. I talked a guy in an SUV into going across first, and that cleared a way for me to get over to the shoulder. I gunned the Civic and made it across with a few fishtails, but I was back on the road.
Once again, I was faced with a decision on whether to go back home or push on to SERA. I decided to head towards SERA since I was almost half-way there and I had pre-paid for it. I got on a back road and followed a bunch of 18 wheelers at 20 mph for about 10 miles until I made it back onto the Interstate past the wreck.
I pulled up at the registration tent about 1:20 am. There was only one person on duty, but I was the only one checking in, so it shouldn't have taken long since I pre-registered. I'm thinking they picked who had to work this shift by how much beer consumed earlier in the evening. It took 10 minutes for me to pick up a packet, sign a sheet of paper, and head into the camp.
I parked somewhere near cabin 8, got out, and wandered around a bit. A band was playing by the lake and they had about 5 drunks swaying in front of them. I headed down towards the vendor area and found Don from the grotto. He showed me where most of the grotto had pitched their tents and I found Joey's truck where he and Aimee were already asleep. I hassled them for a bit, but they refused to wake up, so then Don and I walked over to another camping area where some people from the Birmingham Grotto were hanging out.
About this point, my stomach started feeling a little queasy. Nothing too bad, but I definitely felt nauseous. I said goodnight to Don and headed back towards the cabin after grabbing some stuff from my car.
The cabin was not all that great. I only saw it in near total darkness, but it was just a square room with 10 bunk beds in it. There wasn't even a real door, just a screen door and there were lots of large screened windows that allowed all of the music from the crappy band that decided to play until 3:15 am come in loud and clear. I found my bunk and laid down with a towel for my pillow and my sheet wrapped around me. A frog was right outside the window as well, so I knew that getting any sleep was likely not going to happen.
After the band finally gave it up or passed out, the snoring began. Now I snore myself, so I can't blame anyone else for it, but when two people started snoring in stereo I sat up, grabbed all my stuff, and walked back to my car. I stood there at the car for a bit then decided that it was all just too much and that I wanted to go home. So after being at SERA for a grand total of 2 hours, 27 minutes, I drove back to Hermitage.
On the way 90 minute trip back, my stomach really started hurting, and a lot of heart burn set in as well. I probably should have made myself throw up at that point, but that's something that I really, really hate doing so I toughed it out. I called Marissa just before I got home so I wouldn't scare her coming in, and she told me she was having a lot of stomach problems as well, so it was likely some kind of bug.
Not long after I got home, the problems moved on down lower in the old GI tract, so I spent most of Saturday running back and forth between the bedroom and the bathroom or trying to sleep. It was pretty miserable. I probably should have told someone that I was leaving SERA, since Joey left about 6 messages on my phone that day. Apparently no-one was completely sure that they had seen me there that night, due to lack of sleep and alcohol, so they were developing theories that I had projected my image there to confuse everyone.
I woke up for a little while Saturday afternoon, but went to sleep about 9pm that night and slept for a long, long time. That morning I woke up and was lazy on the couch until Marissa and Jack got back from church, but that afternoon we went swimming and we had a great time. Jack loves the water and he and I spent about half and hour floating around in the pool at the Y. The rest of the time he just likes to walk around and around the pool, checking everything out. After that we went back to the house and played until he went to sleep. It was a great end to what could have been an awful weekend.