Operation Shore Patrol Sep 2019

Keep in mind – it’s the trip, it’s the beach, it’s the friends, it’s the shared meal, it’s helping make the beach a cleaner place, it’s the jokes, it’s the fun, it’s the leg-pulling, the sound of engines, the heritage of wheelers being wheelers together – Operation Shore Patrol is overall – THE EXPERIENCE!

Part 1 – An Incompletely Remembered Partial History of Operation Shore Patrol…….
Shore Patrol originated by the PNW in 1971 – and – I wasn’t there for that one.

But – my first Shore Patrol was in 1998 – in a 1976 Jeep J-10 Pickup – my first wheelin’ rig when I started with the club. I was sure I was going to get stuck on the beach (it didn’t happen) and could barely believe my eyes in camp. It was at the state park even before the casino came to town – and the park was an eye-popping assortment of campers and rigs and tents and RV’s big and small tucked in cheek—to-jowl. 3, 4, 5 or more rigs to each camping spot in the first loop. Rigs broke and rigs getting fixed. And rigs just looking monstrous and even scary – compared to my pretty black and gray truck (no dents) and the 31 inch tires on white spoke wheels I initially thought were pretty tough looking – “dwarfed” by the 33’s (considered a big tire at the time) sported by most lifted and slightly bent looking rigs, driven by men and women who had an insouciant “devil-may-care” air about them and their rigs. I on the other hand at the time was pretty self-conscious and very newbie – and I’m sure sported a certain “deer-in-the headlights” look in my eyes.

During the cleanup part of the day – anything that would or even might burn was tossed in an ever-growing pile near the restrooms – which fortunately were made of cinder-block – which resisted burning when the bonfire really got going. By the time the sun started going down – the pile was probably about the size of 2 or 3 rigs parked on top of each other. A can of gas and diesel liberally applied, then a road flare or a weed burner brought into the mix – and the pile lifted up igniting with a satisfying KA-WHUMPF! Which soon caused the circle of attendees to spread and widen a few times before giving into heat prostration and third degree burns… (Ah – the memories…..) Even with taking all of the burnables out of the mix – there was one year we filled up 2 (count ‘em!) 40 yard dumpsters!

Tamer’s put on a steak dinner every OSP – which was a majority of the club’s revenue for the year. But with well over a hundred or more folks most years – the proceeds from the dinners were abundant and just the thing.

And then – a series of changes conspired to push attendance in a downward spiral over the next decade – give or take a few years. I think first came the “1 camper/vehicle per campsite” edict from the park that served to spread everyone out over like 3 or more loops. Someone not a wheeler complained about all of our shenanigans – and of course the fix for it was to treat everyone like a normal camper. Some following year – then the state started to bridle at providing free camping in exchange for cleaning the beach. Since technically – the beach was not the state park – only the state park was. Then the fix for that was to have everyone present ID and fill out I-9 forms (yes – an Employment Eligibility Verification form – really?) – since in its infinite wisdom – the state reasoned if they were waiving camp fees – then we were technically employees – and had to identify ourselves.

Then I seem to recall something about we only were going to be floated free camping for just 1 night of the weekend since we only cleaned the beach 1 day – and still an I-9 form was required. By this time – the great depression of 2008 showed up – which further made the push back from the state combined with the hundreds of dollars cost for fuel and time spent feeling not particularly appreciated for the cleanup – and – Shore Patrol was seriously looking like the end of the line for what had been a fun and at one time fine tradition. The experience certainly wasn’t what it once had been.

I know there were a few other PNW Region 1 affiliated clubs along with Tamers, and some vendors like Olympic 4×4 keeping the event on life support – but it was kind of touch and go for a few years. I think one year – there were something like 30-some people showed up for OSP and the steak dinner stayed in the black only because a few Tamers purchased the still frozen spare steaks.

Well – grit, determination, some changes in location over the next few years – and preserving the dream for keeping a fine tradition alive – and this year – IT FEELS LIKE SHORE PATROL IS BACK, BABY!

Part 2 – a slightly more accurate and potentially more complete remembering of OSP 2019….

First – the location is great! We have developed a good relationship with Dave at Tidelands Resort over the last 3 years – and the feel of the place is much like the cheek-to-jowl days of old. Not that we have quite yet matched the population density of the days of yore – but we did have quite a collection on HUGE RV’s towing HUGE trailers out of which came MONSTROUS rigs. Along with quite a sampling of travel trailers, tents, older rigs like our Suburban and friend Jake’s truck and camper being turned into pre-fab tin tents with EZ ups turning the raw campsites into living rooms and kitchens.

Friday afternoon weather was glorious! Sunny, not too cool, almost a little muggy in the cover of the shore pines and shrubs. Rudi rolled in with Melissa and Cassy with his hill billy hideaway (the 30 foot long flatbed trailer sporting a camper AND Cassy’s ’69 CJ that used to belong to her grandpa. Chad and family showed up in their very cool new travel trailer. And much to my enjoyment – the Quadrapaws from over on the Kitsap Peninsula joined our happy little group – which afforded me the opportunity to get reunited with former Tamer now Q-Paw pres Mike Wielander! What fun! Amazing to forget how much time has passed – but last time I saw Mike and Rachelle’s son Andrew – he was about 5 years old and still fairly child-sized. Now he is 16 and easily had a head on me.

And of course Sean’s grandson Justin was driving the wheels off his little battery operated Jeep. All afternoon, all night – you could hear him driving that thing back and forth all over the campgrounds. Sean says he’s already rebuilt that thing a time or two given how much road time Justin has in it.

Mary and I got the ‘Burb unloaded and the new easy ups properly positioned. Jake started the fire in order to grill up some T-bones – which were mighty tasty.

And then – the fun and games. Casey (or someone under Casey’s spell) had rolled out into the field a large (and I mean LARGE) like 6 foot tall blow up beach ball out in the field – and people started gathering there with rigs. We at first thought there was going to be a bit of off-road soccer – which seemed possibly like a bad plan at first – since the rubric seemed to go something like “drinks with dinner, high powered off road rigs as the night is getting dark – and a ball. What could go wrong?!?”

Well – actually – a little organization was on hand to save us from ourselves. The ball was just a red herring – the “shiny object” to get the humans all in one place at one time. Because – up to this point not really making any sense – was a line of peeled posts 12 to 15 feet long in a line across the field – with cones and a line paralleling the logs. And then the game was revealed. Using only a rig or 2 per team – the game was to move the log from its resting place – across the field to the finish line. No human touch allowed, no picking up, no nothing. Just 10 minutes to plan on how what you had on your rig, in your rig, around your rig might be used to push, bump, spin, twist that log to the finish line. I won’t detail the many strategies observed – in case you have a chance to play this game in the future – but needless to say – there was a whole lot of thinking going on in the crowd – and after all was said and done – like in a game of golf – you just have to remember to replace your divots after you’re done.

The welcoming committee did superlative duty in greeting attendees with “apple pie”, some clear liquid that was represented as having something to do with cranberries (I doubt it) and jello shots that actually were not so supercharged – that they actually stayed gelled. Yes – there was danger in the air with these three items being offered as party favors. Jake, Mary and I chose the path of sanity – taking only sips, enjoying our campfire, then hitting the rack pretty much at our regular bedtime – dozing off under the clear night sky which revealed a hemisphere of stars.

Ah – but it is Shore Patrol at the Washington State coast – and morning found us waking up to drizzle and gray. We met down at the Ocean City beach access to get our beach assignments, pick up trash bags, and “oooo and ahhhh” over Cheryl’s new back up alert – which was a yellow pool noodle slid over her CB antenna bearing the legend “LOOK OUT!” (It is true she did not back into me the entire time I was at Shore Patrol.)

We got assigned to go from the Best Western South into town until we met up with the Quadra Paws who were coming north from the Shilo. And yes – it was STILL drizzling.

Funny how so many things change. Seems like there was actually a lot more trash on the beach on days gone by and I supposed that was a good thing. I recall we tended to ignore small pieces of plastic, instead going for bottles (glass and plastic in equal amounts) and cans, hunks of carpet, appliances, freezers, tires and wheels, burned out couches. If it was big and looked cool being dragged out on a strap or tied on your rig with a winch – the bigger the better! Well – maybe we’re making some progress – because I actually found very few bottles – and the cans I picked up had obviously been out there a while. Not really much that was fresh.

But – of course – I still do find the irony in those obvious items that appear to have been driven over by at least 8 to 10 rigs that morning – that missed getting picked up. Which I suppose is no problem. Everyone is on their way somewhere to retrieve some garbage – that I observed these pieces just meant this was mine to get. (Or as I intoned to the Tamers when we started – “Don’t worry – there is plenty of trash to go around for everyone….”) But the other thing that changed for me this year – is knowing that probably the most problematic trash are the smaller pieces. Plastics from bags and wrapping, getting smaller and smaller masquerading as food for critters to eat – but not get sustenance from it. It wasn’t as flashy as all of the big items we used to like to bag in earlier days – but probably even more important to retrieve. Plus pieces of ropes and nets and no end of fireworks bits and pieces. I used to equate “small” with “unnecessary to pick up.” Probably now more necessary than ever.

Noon came, the drizzle finally tailed off, the sun started working its way through the mist and most folks headed back to camp for lunch. Mary and I always have a secondary mission whenever we are at the coast – which is to find and collect interesting bits of driftwood. This year’s initiative was the search for “body parts” that may someday turn into a figure gracing our front pole light in the yard at home. But sometimes something not actually fitting the mission is so interesting – it cannot be resisted. Something that looked like a big beach slug found its way to the trailer. Plus 2 other rather large items – that were threatening to cause us to possibly have to leave the Jeep behind in order to get the wood home. Good thing we have ground clearance and a winch – so the slug got secured to the front bumper and the other 2 pieces just fit under the diffs….

While on the search for driftwood – I saw a familiar rig up the beach that gave me cause to call out for “The Donut Shop.” And the owner of the Donut Shop was wondering who was calling him – since few people know this as a name for his rig. And neither will I reveal his identity – since of course the traffic laws take a dim view of folks providing donuts on the beach…. But – as he pulled by to yack – he advised on the alternate title for the weekend – that it should be called “Skidmarks and Flip flops” as he produced a pair of underwear and some rubber sandals he’d picked up on the beach.

I did have some thought wondering what wonderful people were working on dinner – because I knew I’d ordered 2 dinners. And I wasn’t prepping anything or shucking corn – but I assumed someone was. I’ve been that guy tied to a picnic table in past years – and I admired mightily anyone who was doing meal prep. I later found out – a big shout out to goes to Jason and Christina and Jon and Heidi – and those assisting them – as they took the lead in getting dinner ready and on the grill for the rest of us. (Thanks gals and guys!)

Mary and I ended up getting about 4 full bags of bits and pieces off the beach. We tossed them into the dumpster – which this year was probably about a third to a half full this time around. We got back to camp in time for a shower (about $1.50 in quarters will do the trick for enough hot water to get the job done, even getting the conditioner out of the hair) then dinner, and then – THE RAFFLE! (And – the BONFIRE!!!)

Who are the Jeep Podcast Guys? Gary and Gary? They were there to call out raffle numbers and engage in the upbeat patter – to keep the crowd looking at their ticket numbers so we could keep things moving. And there was also a special raffle item – a very nice handmade hemlock bench – that I was gunning for. As dark fell upon the camp and the cool of the evening seeped in – I was wondering when the fire was going to be started. We have a goodly pile (about 5 feet tall by 10 feet across) of flammable odds and ends that REALLY needed to be touched by some amateur arsonist. I was about to go back to our campsite to get a shirt for Mary, when Jake said, “Bring back the lighter fluid. I’ll get this thing going.” And as good as his word – between charcoal lighter fluid and a light – with help from Rudi’s more full bottle of lighter fluid – Jake got that thing going in about 3 spots – and it provided just the right touch for a great evening of raffling, toasting by the fire, consuming the rest of the jello shots and just enjoying each other’s company in the air of relatively organized pandemonium. We’d heard it was supposed to rain in earnest the next morning – but fortunately – the rain held off while we were still up having fun.

The rain woke me up about 2 AM – first a few drops – quickly turning into a downpour. Daylight saw many of the camp occupants already having loaded and headed home. Jake and Mary and I broke camp and got the Jeeps loaded on the trailers – but there was still work to be done before leaving. All the picnic tables used for dinner needed to be redistributed to the camp sites – which a crew of a few of us worked with Gary getting them on his trailer and dropping them where they needed to go. Also – easy ups came down and other shelters. About the same time we finished taking down all of the shelters – just after that – the rain just about quit. (Of course….) Nothing worse than packing up your stuff all wet and soggy in the rain. Although, I’d guess if OSP is an experience – that’s all part of it.

But I agree with Mary. It’s been many years and a lot of work. But this year – all of what was good from the past has surfaced again in a great experience. Operation Shore Patrol is indeed back – on some pretty good footing. Thanks to all who came, had fun, worked hard and made it a good time!

Thanks for Reading – And Keep On Wheelin’!