Fear and Loathing in a Florida Campground

Naples, FL camping

Our cabin, and car looking ultra-sporty and mud-splattered.

Halloween weekend may seem an unlikely time to go camping, what with visions of mischief and ghouls dancing through one’s head. It’s an even less likely time to want to spend in Florida’s woods, when you consider Florida being home to the infamous Florida Man.

And yet, because Ayaz and I clearly don’t always make good decisions, we decided this was a GREAT weekend to head to a Naples, FL campground, rent a cabin and get our bonfire on.

Here’s the thing about Naples. It is old. Quite literally, nearly every soul we saw was a white-haired senior citizen who was more often than not, shuffling toward a golf course. Even our campground was a mix of campsites and permanent mobile homes, owned by, you guessed it, retirees.

Not surprisingly, our first night was blissfully quiet. It was Halloween, after all, so there were no large families, and just one young, pregnant couple next to us who, when we asked if they had a corkscrew, answered, “No, but we have plenty of knives.”

Ah, Florida.

Naples Pier

Naples Pier

We spent the next day exploring Naples, visiting the zoo, having lunch in the tourist trap restaurants of Tin City, wandering the high-end shops of Third Street South. All-in-all, it was lovely. Then, we decided to return to the campground.

Things had changed. A few cabins down a couple — basically Florida Man’s brother and his ex-girlfriend — had appeared, and they were not peaceful. In fact, they were drunk. They were drunk because they had brought with them two cases of beer and some bottles of $8 vodka. (note: I know about the “ex” status and $8 vodka because they wouldn’t stop shouting about either).

Things went rapidly downhill from here. These two were among the loudest, most foul-mouthed individuals I’ve ever been near. The cursing, the shouting, the passionate fighting, the passionate boozing, talk about meth and suspended driver’s licenses — it was all there. Steps from my door.

We escaped to dinner at the very tasty HobNob restaurant in downtown Naples (a true hipster’s paradise). Then returned to the campsite after dark — the witching hour, of sorts.

We built our campfire, sat down with some wine, and were grateful that the couple was nowhere to be seen — or heard. Until.

Some time later the woman — not a small woman — came stumbling toward us, yelling about ribs, from what we could gather. She attempted to drop into a squat while talking, and almost in slow motion, teetered over onto her back — where she got stuck. For a while.

zoo animals

At the Naples zoo. (Also what my face probably looked like as the woman toppled)

Finally, she righted herself, and began yelling that someone had taken their ribs off the barbecue. Someone STOLE their ribs. The ribs had been cooking for THREE hours. Had we seen the thieves?

Um, no. And I suggested that maybe since it’s a campground next to the woods, an animal stole them. She didn’t think this was possible, apparently.

“THIS AIN’T MY FIRST TIME AT THE RODEO!” she screamed. Well, then.

Next thing we knew, perhaps mercifully, her ex came stumbling out of the woods holding a long sheet of tinfoil. “A ‘COON GOT ‘EM!” he shouted in glee.

Apparently, a meticulous racoon had stolen their ribs, hot off the grill, taken them into the woods, carefully unwrapped the tinfoil and ate every last bite, leaving nothing but a bare pile of bones.

Ayaz and I retired to bed early that night, donning earplugs and turning on a fan to muffle their drunken yells. It was the end to our Halloween Florida camping adventure, fittingly.

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