Captain’s Log

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2024

BLACK OAK RANCH circa 3:30pm—Piercing sun rays ricochet off the shuttle’s hood in a staccato pattern, sweeping from right to left as I change heading, following the lumpy access road. Three weeks of ranch driving has accumulated on the windshield a fractal lattice of dust. The 10 mile-per-hour speed limit gives me ample opportunity to regard trees like old friends—the soaring guardsman at the parking lot turn, the one-armed ogre near the footpath crossing. The pale tones of grass, gravel and sky unite in a pounding brightness. Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” contributes to the hypnotic eeriness of the scene. Vultures circle overhead.

High temperatures this afternoon have triggered the “Double Shuttle” contingency plan to get more kids to visit Lake Veronica, which is why I find myself once again driving my Chevy to the levy. Even with the full AC blasting, the heat clings to the skin like an unwanted parka. The drive from Downtown Camp to Lake Veronica is only about 7 minutes, but a typical shuttle shift includes about eight round-trips. I come to a stop at the road bend overlooking our lake access point, marking the halfway point of my sixth lap.


A group of campers break away from the nectarine and Goldfish snack bowls to jog up the hill toward the road, towels over shoulders and hands outstretched to maintain balance on the uneven slope. They identify themselves as members of the Orange Tipi.

“Seatbelts on!,” I declare before making a careful u-turn. The first leg takes us on several ‘S’ curves between the blackberries and cattails.

“The lake was pretty slay,” said Jolie, 13. “There was a lot of lily pads which was gross, so you might not want to go if you can’t handle squishy underwater things.”

Arriving at Downtown Hogville (see: Hog Farm Commune), we turn left down the hill, right at the geodesic dome, and onward under the aforementioned trees.

“The counselors giving the swim ratings were really nice,” says Eva, 12.

We roll over large speed bumps while passing Irene’s organic vegetable garden. A cartoon image of a triumphant pig in a jumpsuit demarcates the corner gate.

“The AC is really good; it’s like 100 degrees out there,” says Liz, 13, of the shuttle. “I like the lake shuttle because it’s a good way to reconnect to the city.”

“It’s a chill way to cool off before going to the lake,” adds Zoe, 13.

“Beats walking!” quips Aurora, 13.

“It’s a great way to meet new people or talk to someone you wouldn’t otherwise,” says Skye 13.

We cross the large green metal bridge and descend into Camp proper, where people mill about in search of afternoon intrigue. The shuttle lumbers through, uncomfortably large in the pedestrian pathways, finally arriving at the Downtown Crossroads, where all my passengers disembark.

“LAAAAAKE SHUTTLE!” I shout. And the beat goes on.

Stay hydrated,

—J. Payseno

PS: Yesterday my colleague Song Leader Natalie Garms collected some opening day quotations to add to the blog feed. Enjoy:

Djuna, 23, gave her interview while hanging upside-down.

“Registration went great. We were in the shade and it was fun to see the faces of everyone we will be spending the next two weeks with”

When asked how she felt about giving her interview while inverted on the aerial silks she responded, “That’s just how we do it at the Aerials Site.”

Brook, 13, Indigo: learned Mill’s Mess (see: advanced juggling trick) during session break.

Oscar, 12, Indigo, on the bus: “Nice to experience talking to people, you know, socializing.” He was disappointed that there was no live band on the bus, or even just a guy with a guitar. On orientation: “Educational indeed. I’ve been here before of course.” Favorite part of Camp so far was song circle. “Finally!”

Rose Moylan, Art Instructor: “The bird prophecy is being realized. It’s the year of the bird, Session B—ird. I’ve seen lots of avian activity.”

Lilah, 10, Gold said, “The pizza was good. You gotta get a corner piece; it’s all about a corner piece.”

Rose, Camila, and Eva, triplets in Maroon Tipi, from Ireland, first time in the US: “So far American camp has been hot and exciting.” They plan to study stilts and juggling tomorrow.

Lime Tipi pizza report: Phoenix, 9, ate five slices. Cosmos, 9, ate five slices. Willow, 7, ate nine slices. Wesley, 8, ate nine slices.

It’s Wesley’s first time at Camp but is family and/or friends of the “Gravy Gravy.” The most surprising thing so far was a metallic bug. “It was landing and eating bacteria and moss on a tree. It was about dime-sized.”