After getting settled in the Gatehouse, I change into my swimsuit cover-up, sans swimsuit (baby steps) and head out to explore. I met Jan when I was checking in at the office and she seems quite nice and invites me to come down to her place to visit. Deidra has marked Jan’s place on the map so I trek on over. This is very much a campground-like atmosphere thus, one should always carry a flashlight. Besides my flashlight, I carry a bottle of wine, as mom taught me never to arrive empty handed. I reach Jan’s place and we stand outside talking for a few minutes. After a bit, she grabs some cups and we take a seat at her picnic table.
Jan has just returned to “The Willies,” as she and her husband, who arrives tomorrow, spend most of the year near her kids and grand kids in Bend, Oregon. As it’s right before the Memorial Day weekend, many of the “snowbirds” are arriving for Spring Fling, the big party to kick-off the summer. I tell Jan this is my first time in a nudist resort and it’s a bit out of my comfort zone. As she has no shirt on, she graciously asks if it makes me uncomfortable and offers to put on a top. That’s the thing here, although it’s a nudist resort, everyone seems very sensitive about not making this newcomer feel uncomfortable. I tell Jan that it’s nothing I haven’t seen before and I might have taken mine off if it weren’t a bit chilly.
I ask Jan if she and her husband have always considered themselves nudists and she tells me that they’ve always been very comfortable with their bodies. They found this place about ten years ago – it’s been around since 1953 – and enjoy the sense of community. The way she explains it, it’s not about being nude, it’s about not really caring about what the outside looks like. The women tend not to wear makeup and they head down to the office to do business in their bathrobes. They care more about what a person is like on the inside.
I ask what her kids think of it and she tells me that they grew up comfortable with their bodies and often come to visit at the resort. When her son and daughter-in-law come, her son is less comfortable and doesn’t generally go to the pool which, along with the sauna, is the only place nudity is required. Her daughter-in-law and grand-kids come to the pool, and her son has no problem with that.
As we chat, various people stop by to welcome Jan back. All are clothed and Jan has put on a top as night is falling. (Even nudists get cold.) Sally Jo stops by and, after inviting her to share our wine, she grabs a cup and takes a seat. Sally Jo has worked as a polygraph examiner for the sheriff’s office for 25 years. She’s now doing private consulting and will be leaving her job there soon. I ask her if her coworkers know that she comes here on the weekends and she says they do. “They just think I’m an old hippie.” Her granddaughter is coming up this weekend and she’s very excited.
While we sit around the picnic table they tell me stories of some of the residents (some live here full time in very elaborate RV’s, some live in the original cabins, some are snowbirds, and some just come up on weekends). There seems to be a true sense of community here; these people truly care about each other. After a nice conversation and a few glasses of wine, I head on back to my room to put on my pajamas (I’m guessing I’m the only one here who is wearing them) and catch a good night’s sleep.
I awake this morning at about 8:00, get some work done, pack some bags and head on over to the pool. I, once again, wear my swimsuit cover-up without the swimsuit. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around except for a guy sitting in the community building watching a reality show on the Discovery Network (here and there he switches to The Price is Right). I pass the showers and head straight to the pool (showers are required before entering the pool but I’ve just showered in my room and, well, I’m a rebel). There’s nobody at the pool and just two men standing by a pick-up truck on the road next to the pool. Putting on a confident front, I quickly remove my swimsuit cover-up and, well, I’m naked. I waste no time walking down the steps into the very warm swimming pool (thank goodness). By taking my clothes off when there isn’t anybody here, I’m literally dipping my toe into this nudist thing.
I float in the pool for about fifteen minutes not really noticing that I’m not wearing a swimsuit. Somehow the water feels safe and feels a bit like clothing. I don’t really notice that I’m naked until I begin to get a little cold and get out. I grab my towel and enjoy the atmosphere – blooming flowers, surrounded by tall pine trees in peaceful environment; very peaceful, in fact. When do these people wake up? I head down to the office to say good morning to Deidra. She’s very excited to learn that I “went swimming” (code word for took off my clothes). I load my luggage into my car and drive on back up to the pool area so I can get on the road as soon as my I’m finished with my visit.
When I walk through the community building the same guy is there watching the same reality TV show (not the swingin’ good time one might imagine at a nudist resort). I take my shoes off and enter the back hall which houses the restrooms – separate for men and women – and the showers which are unisex. As I must shower prior to going into the pool again, I remove my swimsuit cover-up and enter the shower. There’s one sixty-something year-old man in there (the average age of residents is fifty). I take a deep breath and choose the shower furthest away. I quickly rinse, grab my towel and enter the pool area. There is a couple in their forties at the other end of the pool. I look at them straight in the eyes and say a friendly hello while confidently removing my towel and stepping into the pool.
Before long five more people join us. There’s Frank and Laurie, who I’d guess are in their late forties to early fifties, a single man who sticks to himself swimming at the other end of the pool, and a gay couple in their fifties. We float in the pool talking for about forty-five minutes before I, again, begin to get chilly, as do Frank and Laurie. They invite me to join them in the sauna and, as they’ve preheated it which sounds very nice to my very cold, naked self, I join them. We enjoy the sauna, me wrapped loosely in a towel and them naked, while they tell me how they met and their future plans which include moving out of their already sold house next week and traveling the country in their newly purchased fifth wheel (which I think is a really big RV but could be some secret nudist code). After about twenty minutes, I’m feeling toasty and decide to get on the road to my next destination, wherever that may be.
After saying my goodbye’s and thanking everyone for making me feel so comfortable, I head on down the road and come to a T intersection. From there I have to decide; right or left. I choose left and go where the road takes me.
Tomorrow – A drive through wine country in Wine Country Jamboree