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Stinky camper taints otherwise idyllic lakeside expedition

Jeff Bobo • Aug 31, 2017 at 2:52 PM

For sale: world’s most luxurious porta potty.

Air conditioning, queen size bed, 32” color TV, fridge, stove and oven, microwave and shower.

Warning: Improper maintenance of commode WILL create invisible funk eruption that punches you in the face.

A couple of months ago, I did a story for our Go! magazine about lakeside camping.

I’d previously visited a couple of the locations mentioned, but most of my research for that story was done online.

A few weeks ago, Lynn and I took a copy of that magazine and spent the day actually visiting the lakefront campgrounds that I had mentioned in the article.

There were a couple of disappointments. The campground in Mooresburg was gated with no one in the office on a Saturday afternoon to open the gate, so we didn’t get to see if it’s any good.

Panther Creek State Park is beside the lake, and although it has a wonderful overlook, it doesn’t have any lakefront camping.

Cherokee Dam was OK, but it’s pretty crowded and most camp sites don’t have a good lake view.

Not far from Cherokee Dam, however, we discovered a hidden little gem of a campground called the May Springs in Grainger County about halfway between Rutledge and Jefferson City.

It was perfect. Clean. Quiet. Very private. They’ve got some camping spots that are literally right on the lake. When you step out of your tent or camper, you’re only 20 feet from the shoreline.

Unfortunately, some of those only have water and electric and some are primitive.

Originally I wanted to book a spot only 20 feet from the water. But instead, we opted for another lakefront spot that had about half a football field of green grass between us and the shoreline because it had the all-important sewer hookup.

Maybe we’ve lost our pioneer spirit, but when you reach a certain age, public bath houses and/or “behind a tree with some leaves” loses its appeal, and you need a little more private and/or civilized restroom accommodations.

That’s why we bought a camper with a commode and shower. Instead of booking motel rooms and hoping they’re sparkling clean, we bring our own sparkling clean motel room with us.

Or so we thought.

In early July, we spent a week camping on Myrtle Beach, during which time I ran out of the little deodorant pouches that you’re supposed to flush into the camper septic tank after dumping it.

That was right after the last dump before we pulled out, so I made a mental note to go buy some of those little deodorant pouches as soon as we got home and put some where they need to go.

That note got misplaced somewhere in the recesses of my mind until Friday afternoon as we were checking in at May Springs.

But we were in luck. The campground store had deodorant pouches for sale. They were an off-brand that advertised being environmentally friendly with no chemicals or dyes.

So we arrived at our campsite and got everything unhitched and unloaded. It was very hot, and afterwards we sat a spell and enjoyed our amazing lake view, as well as a cold adult beverage or two.

Anyone who has enjoyed an adult beverage or two knows that eventually you’re going to have to visit a restroom, especially if you’ve got a tiny bladder like me.

Oh, the horror.

I flushed the commode for the first time in seven weeks, and a wave of invisible funk erupted from the bowl that would have gagged a maggot.

It was as if a porta potty at Bristol Motor Speedway that hadn’t been emptied after the Truck, Xfinity or Cup races was taken to a weeklong chili, burrito and boiled egg festival.

I made another mental note. NEVER misplace future mental notes about placing deodorant in the camper septic tank.

And let me say this. I’m all for being environmentally friendly, but those environmentally friendly deodorant pouches were WAY outclassed by the invisible funk eruption we were dealing with.

When you need to eliminate a seven-week-old fermented septic funk, bring me the strongest chemicals and dyes on the market. Anything short of melting the tank will do.

To make matters worse, we couldn’t go to the store to buy strong chemicals and dyes because we’d both imbibed adult beverages. We had to ride it out until morning.

You could open all the windows, the bathroom roof vent, and crank the AC to full blast, and the funk would be gone after about an hour. Of course, every time you flushed the commode, it was septic funk Armageddon all over again.

Lynn got up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, and five seconds after she flushed, the funk literally punched me in the face in bed on the other side of the camper. I said, “Oh my gosh. We’re sleeping in the world’s most luxurious porta potty.”

As usual, Lynn saved the day. She looked up the anti-funk remedy online, and the next morning bright and early we went to the Jefferson City Walmart and bought a gallon of lemon scented Pine-Sol and some good old fashioned toxic chemical and dye laden pouches.

A couple of lemon-scented septic flushes later, the funk was completely gone, and we were able to enjoy the rest of our weekend, with only the all-natural scent of pine trees, a lake breeze and burgers and brats on the grill filling out nostrils.

While at Walmart I also purchased two floats for $4 apiece from the bargain bin. Best $8 I spent all year. Lynn and I floated our troubles away under a perfect sunny sky Saturday and Sunday.

And when we loaded up to come home Monday, I doubled up on flushing deodorant pouches — heavy on the chemicals and dyes. I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I do learn from my mistakes.    

Jeff Bobo covers Hawkins County for the Times-News. Email him at jbobo@timesnews.net.                                                    

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