We spent the next few days pedaling across the state, making about 40 miles a day, and camping at the city parks in the little towns we passed through. We arrived in the desert village of Creston around 5:30 in the evening of our third day and set up our tents on the lawn outside a community baseball diamond. It had turned windy, and we cooked our dinner in the nearby picnic shelter, played a few games of backgammon and turned in. It was a pleasantly warm evening, and Highway 2 was quiet all night. The only disturbance was a freight train that rumbled through around midnight and roused me for a few minutes. But once it was past, I fell back asleep and snoozed soundly until early the next morning.
I rose at 6:00 a.m. and walked over to the cafe across the street to get a cup of tea. I went in and nodded ‘hello’ to the group of senior citizens seated at one of the four or five tables crowded into the small dining room. Our tents were visible through the cafe’s big picture window, and as I sat sipping my tea, one of the old timers struck up a conversation. “What time you figure it is?” He asked after some smalltalk.
I looked up at the clock on the wall. “Well, looks to be about 6:45.”
“Uh huh,” the old fellow said, “…any minute now.” The whole cafe fell silent, all eyes were on me.
I waited a few moments then said, “Okay, I’ll bite, what’s going to happen any minute now?”
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The silver-haired man blew on his coffee, added sugar and cream then took a sip. “Them sprinklers over there, them ones right under your tents? Well, you see, they’re on a timer and they’ll be coming on just about five minutes from now.” His statement met with a general nodding of heads and murmurs of affirmation.
“What?” I shouted, jumped up, fled the cafe, ran across the street and shook Mike awake. “We ‘gotta pack up quick,” I said.
Mike sat up and looked around groggily. “Huh?” He said, “what’s the rush?”
“Never mind,” I said, “I’ll tell you later. Just get up and get your stuff off the lawn fast!” I ran over to my tent, tripped, and fell in the door. Mike was up now and I explained about the sprinklers as I dragged clothes and equipment out of my tent and threw them willy-nilly into my panniers. We hastily dragged all our belongings to safety on the sidewalk, stumbling and dropping clothes, sleeping bags and cooking gear, tripping over each other and generally making a big mess of the whole thing. The Three Stooges couldn’t have put on a better show. With our gear out of harm’s way, we stood tensely waiting for the sprinklers to come on. We waited five minutes then 10 and then we caught on. “We’ve been had,” I said.
We walked across the street to the cafe where we were met with raucous laughter and good-natured kidding. The old boys had been standing at the window, watching us, and had gotten a kick out of our antics. “Bet you never packed that fast, huh?” The old joker said, giving me a friendly slap on the back.
We laughed at having fallen for their ruse, after all, it was a pretty good joke. We sat at a table and ordered breakfast. “That’s the second practical joke that’s been played on us in a couple of days,” Mike whispered, “are we really as dumb as we look?”
“No way,” I replied, “we couldn’t be.”