Cheap Date

Jun 1, 2005
Outside Magazine
Summer My Way

"This is my favorite style of summer camping: high in Wyoming's Wind River Range. No tent, no bivy sack—just a bag laid down in a flowering alpine meadow. Violent thunderstorms pass through in the afternoon, cleaning the sky, so nights are thick with stars. In the morning, pink light floods the granite walls and you can almost believe there's a God."—Outside Hard Way columnist Mark Jenkins

Three thousand dollars might seem a little steep for one night in sleepy little Rhinebeck, New York, but I managed to spend it. The reason for the exorbitant fee: I had paid for half of a three-bedroom cottage from Memorial Day to Labor Day (or MD–LD, in classified-ad parlance) and slept at the house exactly one time.

I should have known in March, when my friend Ben and I drove around with Hairsprayed Realtor Lady, that my vacation venture was doomed. The house we rented was sweet-a gray-shingled Cape on three acres of gently rolling hills-but the interior was littered with ladybug exoskeletons. If shiny, rosy ladybugs are cheery good-luck symbols of summer, shouldn't their postmortem husks be considered bad juju?

I opted to overlook the omen and signed the lease. We signed partly because the realtor's M.O. was to make us believe that this house was the only good one left. We also signed because each of us had recently been dumped, and renting a summer house was a way of getting on with our lives in a screw-all-y'all kind of way.

We drove back to the city, and in the ensuing months I would imagine scenes from my coming summer in mellow, low-key Dutchess County: I'd be strolling down the sun-dappled dirt driveway, stopping to eat wild blackberries right off the bush, clearly recovered from my breakup.

As it happened, when "MD" rolled around, I was still lonely and sad, and Ben had gotten all hot for a woman whose friends were also coupled up and on the docket for Hudson River Valley fun. A few Saturdays, I drove up to Rhinebeck but, feeling like the seventh-person sourpuss along on a triple date, drove back to the city before bedtime.

Right around the time I watched Ben and his girlfriend drive off to a sunset wine tasting, I realized that my sun-dappled summer was not to be. And so, near the very end of August, I forced myself to actually sleep there, to get my alleged $3,000 worth. It didn't even come close.

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