Over the past several years, Iwanski and I have spent many hours walking in the forests of northern Wisconsin and Michigan, the Ozark Mountains, and the Smokey Mountains. For a couple of city people like us, we sure do like the country.
And as a former Girl Scout like me, I always come prepared. I always bring SPF-15 Sunscreen, Deep Woods Off, a bottle or two of water, some kind of snack, and an extra sweatshirt in case I get cold. I do not like to be itchy, sunburned, thirsty, hungry, or cold. I am pretty much the definition of high maintenance.
Iwanski, on the other hand, brings along his sunglasses and his camera. That’s it—that’s all he needs. But being a smart guy, he also uses the sunscreen and insect repellant that I bring along. He is especially adamant about the bug repellant. And it’s not so much the mosquitos he’s concerned about; it’s the ticks. For as long as I’ve known him, Iwanski has been very concerned about ticks. Okay, not just concerned—downright paranoid. Every time we go to a wooded area, he warns me over and over again about ticks, and sprays every square inch of his body with insect repellant. (He spent a lot of time in his childhood in Central Wisconsin, during a time when Lyme Disease was very prevalent and he had been warned over and over again by everyone he knew to avoid ticks.) But it’s okay, because MHP was a Girl Scout and never forgets to bring along the Deep Woods Off.
Except for this weekend. This weekend, we decided to take a train ride to the Indiana Dunes. I had never been to the Dunes, but the word “dunes” conjured up in my head images of huge mounds of sand that people would try to climb up and slide back down. And yes, that was partly true. But there were also lots of trees and plants and a fair amount of insects, which I had not anticipated. So of course, I had not brought along my trusty bottle of Deep Woods Off. But the mosquitos weren’t biting too badly, so we lucked out on that aspect.
We enjoyed sojourning among the tall sand dunes, imagining ourselves wandering through the Sahara Desert—and we even saw little lizards and an occasional cactus (yes, there are both lizards and one type of cactus in that area of the Midwest). It is an amazing, beautiful place—very unique in our part of the country.
Then we took our hour-long train ride back to downtown Chi-town and wrapped up the lovely day with a couple of ice-cold beers, and fell asleep dreaming of the dunes.
And then it happened.
It was 5:00 in the morning, and I suddenly heard Iwanski talking, “Honey, wake up! I have to tell you something.” He turned on the closet light, and I squinted back at him. “What? What’s wrong?”
“I got bit by a tick,” he said.
“What?!” I bolted up right in bed. Now I was wide awake. “Where? When?”
“Just now,” he said. “I went to the bathroom, and I noticed something biting me on my shoulder. I grabbed it and yanked it off of me. See?” He showed me a small red mark on his shoulder. He paused for a moment and then said nervously, “Oh my God, now I have Lyme Disease!”
“Oh, don’t worry honey, you probably don’t have Lyme Disease.” Then I started to think about the tick crawling around in our bed, and I got really creeped out. I jumped out of bed and asked Iwanski to check me for ticks, and we stood there at five in the morning looking over each other’s bodies for any signs of another little arachnid. (I found out later that a tick is not an insect, but an arachnid. Not that that knowledge made me feel any better about it!) But thankfully, that appeared to be the lone tick. (Still, I’m itching right now just thinking about it.)
The next hour was spent with Iwanski huddled nervously over the laptop, looking up the incidences of Lyme Disease in the Indiana Dunes area, and the symptoms of Lyme Disease—while I lay on the couch trying to calm him—and myself—down. Luckily, the incidences of Lyme Disease in the Indiana Dunes area is very small, and we learned that overall, way less than 1% of people that get bitten by ticks end up with Lyme Disease. Well, thank God for that!
We could finally go back to bed—but not without first thoroughly inspecting and shaking out every pillow, sheet, and blanket on our bed. Then finally, we both fell asleep again, but this time, dreaming of ticks crawling all over our house. Yuck!
Miss Girlscoutpants has learned a big lesson this weekend, folks—and she will never again be caught in the country without a bottle of Deep Woods Off.
Because as much as I like to call Iwanski “paranoid” for his concern about ticks, I did not like the fact that he got bitten by one—and I sure would not want to be bit by one of those icky little suckers myself.