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By Mary Belton

National Nude Weekend. Nudies will host an open house for the whole family at Olive Dell Ranch, Colton, California. Arts and crafts, carnival games, club tours. Nudity not required during this open house weekend. Free.

I call my friend Alison and read her the listing from the LA Times. Drive out to the desert, play some ring-toss, and check out the nudists. How can we not go? It's an adventure. And, it's free.

I put sun block, a micro-cassette tape recorder and three disposable cameras in my bag -- one regular, one panoramic, and one 3-D. I pick up Alison and she says, "I guess I'll bring a towel just in case, you want one?" "What?" In case of what? No towel necessary. I'm not getting nude. It hadn't even occurred to me. I'm picturing a couple of token nude people milling around and a bunch of looky-loos, like me, eating cotton candy. I thought the nudists would be in glass enclosed habitats, like at the zoo.

So, we drive out to Colton, which is about an hour and a half outside of LA, in an ugly, dusty, wasteland. We get off the freeway and drive and drive, out into the absolute middle of nowhere. They don't even have a 7-Eleven in Colton, they have a "Super 7". It's really hot out here. About a mile past the fifty-cent car wash we finally come to a dirt road with a small, hand-painted sign that says, "Olive Dell Nudist Ranch" with an arrow pointing up a hill. At this point I'm getting a little nervous because I'm thinking, Where is everybody? I thought there would be tons of people and maybe a Ferris wheel or something.

We arrive at a closed electric security gate. No one is around. The sign posted on the gate reads, "Private Property -- No Trespassing" and next to a pass-key port there's another sign telling visitors to pick up the phone for entry. Now I'm afraid. I am certain this is some paramilitary compound for a sect of nudist Branch Davidians.

Suddenly, out of a little shack by the gate comes this middle-aged, totally hairless man, nude. I close my eyes and put my head down. Poor Alison is trying to talk to the guy. She tells him we're here for the open house. He hands her the welcome packet that had been shielding his penis, and instructs us to drive through the gate.

We park in a dirt lot full of cars, pick-up trucks and a few trailers. And, there are all these nude people walking around. Not one looky-loo. We're the only clothed people there, and we're giggling like fools. We sit in the car, trying to calm down, looking over the literature the Nude Greeter gave us. One pamphlet is called "The Nude Experience from a Woman's Perspective." In it are photos of nude women smelling flowers, playing the piano, walking with crutches, doing arts and crafts, and climbing a ladder. I have never done any of these things nude. There are vignettes of nudist women, like Joye, who "greets the day and her neighbors as nature intended, wearing simply a warm smile. After all, one's birthday suit is always in style -- a timeless original, custom designed by Mother Nature for ultimate comfort, accented with a strong statement of self-esteem." Hmmm. Some of the frequently asked questions listed: "Do men become visibly embarrassed during their visits to a nudist resort?" "Will my picture be taken?" The list of rules includes: 1. No controlled drugs. 2. No firearms (!) and 11. You must always sit on a towel when nude.

Every time people walk by the car I check the rearview mirror to see if they are nude. They are. It becomes increasingly clear to us that at some point we will have to get nude, or get out. We have just driven an hour and a half to get here, so we can't wimp out now. Besides, it's not like there is anything else to do in Colton. Our Saturday would be blown. Eventually, after ten minutes or so, we calm down and get out of the car. Fully dressed. We are standing in the parking lot, putting on sun block, when this woman wearing just a large straw hat and sunglasses walks up to us. She warns me that sun block isn't really effective until a half-hour after application. She is really tan.

So, Nude Woman Number One introduces us to shapely Nude Carol and her huge, tattooed, scraggly-haired husband Nude Mike and they take us on a tour of the grounds. ("Mike and Carol, like the Bradys," Alison says.) There is a pool, a volleyball court, tennis courts, shuffle board, a club house, hiking trails ("watch out for snakes and tarantulas!" warns Nude Mike) and a little cafe ("best burgers around!" Nude Carol brags). Meanwhile, the "carnival" consists of a sad little booth where you throw darts at balloons taped to a piece of cardboard. The "arts and crafts" were feathered roach-clip earrings and Olive Dell Ranch spaghetti-strap tank-tops.

Whipping out tickets from behind his back, Nude Mike asks us if we are going to stay for the dance that night. He tells us we would be required to wear clothes to it. "The ranch is a family resort, so the owner doesn't want any body contact between guests while nude." He offers that we can dance topless if we want to, and we won't be required to wear panties under our skirts if we promise to twirl. Gee, thanks, Nude Mike, but we really have to get back to the city before dark.

After the tour we decide to grab a "Volleyball Burger." Everyone sitting in the cafe eating is nude. We, the Clothed, sit at a table in the back. Against the back wall are mail boxes, some shelves full of paperback books, and a collection of board games. We order, pick up a couple of books to hide behind later at the pool (a murder mystery, and a novelization of a TV-movie starring Kristy McNichol and Linda Lavin) and wait for our food. It's taking a long time, or so it seems to us, but we are hesitant to complain because we don't want to be uncool. Like, "God, those Clothed People are so uptight." "What's you're hurry, Clothed People?"

We finally get our food which really is delicious. Juicy burgers and crispy fries. Then we decide it is time to get nude. I wonder where we should go to change. Somehow, getting nude in front of a bunch of strangers seems even more embarrassing than being nude in front of a bunch of strangers. We take off our clothes in the parking lot, locking them in the trunk of the car. The ground is really hot so I have to keep my sneakers on. Alison is wearing clogs which, I notice, look much better than sneakers when you're nude.

I don't even remember walking from the car back to the patio. We are just suddenly there. Unfortunately, there aren't any unoccupied chaise lounges pool-side. The only free lounges are up on this sort of platform to the side of the club house. We find two together and lie down. Almost immediately we are approached by a man wearing only a fisherman's hat with loads of buttons that say things like "My Kid's an Honor Student at Riverside High" and "DARE to say NO to Drugs." "First time nude?" he asks. He talks to us about the joys of Social Nudism and tries to convince us to lay out some dough to join. I make it through a conversation with him and realize that I have just spoken to a strange nude man wearing a goofy hat, while nude myself, for the first time in my life.

Then Alison and I start checking everyone out. Thank God we have sunglasses to hide behind at least. There are nudists of all ages and shapes here. Practically everyone is white, and very well-tanned. Most of the women wear big earrings and/or anklets. I see one pierced nipple and lots of shoulder and butt tattoos. I guess if you're nude all the time you get really into tattoos, jewelry, and nail polish. There's a yuppie-looking couple lying by the pool, wearing matching blue baseball caps with corporate logos. Alison asks, "Do you think you could date a guy who hangs out at a nudist ranch?" "No." "Me neither."

We spot a beautiful boy, around 14 years old, wearing only a long, faded, indigo-blue T-shirt, and spend a long time staring at him. We had seen him earlier, when he was sitting at a table in the cafe. We had assumed he was embarrassed because his weird nudist parents made him come here, so he was sulking, refusing to take his shirt off. We fantasize about kidnapping him and bringing him back to LA.

After plotting out the quickest, least visible way to get to the pool, we sneak over and slip in. There are some little kids tossing balls around with their parents in the shallow end. A man is spinning a little girl on his shoulders as she screams, delighted. We are hiding quietly in the deep end when a man with a moustache swims over to us. "First time nude?" Then, Button-Hat Guy jumps in and asks us if we've bought any raffle tickets. The mustached man says he hasn't sold any of his yet and Button-Hat Guy says, "None of the other boys on the force'll buy, huh?" Wow. A nude cop. Nude Cop says, "Nah, they're too cheap. Those guys won't buy anything that doesn't come with a free beer."

Back at our chaise lounges, we watch 14 Year-Old Boy play ping pong. He has muscular thighs. We wonder how old he really is. If he'd just take his shirt off we could probably tell. We try telepathically willing him to take it off. No luck. "Maybe he's sunburned." "Yeah, maybe." "But it's rule number eight: You must be nude on patio, deck and recreation areas at all times, weather permitting. It's not fair." "It should be mandatory for teenage boys to be nude. They have to set the example."

Soon, a musician comes out on the patio. DJ Digital Hippie. He has an electric keyboard strapped to his chest and he plays Beatles, Eagles, and Loggins & Messina songs. Yes, he is nude too. He keeps making corny jokes over the PA system. "Welcome to Olive Dell where you get to see more of your friends!" He has enormous testicles.

Nude Mike comes up and asks us if we would like to play volleyball. I just shake my head. Alison mutters something about, "Oh, thanks but we're gonna leave soon, I don't thinkŠuhŠ" The court is below the patio area so we lean over a rail to watch the game with a few other people. There are about twelve players. There is a guy who looks just like Robin Williams. And, there is a guy out there in nothing but a cowboy hat. He looks like a gay greeting card. (Happy Birthday, Pardner!) And a woman who put on her sun block unevenly so only her ass is bright red. A guy with a camera comes up and asks us if he can take a picture of us from behind. I guess we are going to be in the brochure or something. "Great. Should we ever become public figures they are gonna recognize us and bring that picture back. That's what always happens."

OK, now here is the part that most amazes me. Alison and I get up, nude, and play ping pong. Nude. Yes we did, thank you ma'am. The table is in the middle of the patio, right next to DJ Digital Hippie's set-up. We have a really hard time getting a rally going and we continually have to run around chasing the ball. I hit it too hard, and it rolls under where the Digital Hippie is standing. Alison has to crawl under him to get it. He interrupts his rendition of "House at Pooh Corner" to shout, "Hey, I know that trick," over the PA system.

The volleyball game breaks up and some people wander over to the table, waiting their turn to play the winner. I am not playing nude ping pong with anyone but Alison, so we decide to go buy souvenirs. There's no point in getting nude if you can't prove it. We go to the arts and crafts table to buy a couple of tank-tops from Nude Coed. She tells us about the time a radio station came up to do a story on the ranch and they took a picture of her with K-FROG bumper stickers over her breasts and crotch.

We go back to our chaise lounges. It's getting late so we're just going to get a little more sun and then head home. And thenŠ "First time nude?" Uh oh. A guy with a pronounced Jersey accent and that hair, the kind that's short in front and long in back, is standing way too close to us, kind of hovering, holding a can of beer. It's the Nude Swinger.

"Where you guys from? Stayin' for the dance? Been to any of the other clubs?" Hey man, do you mind not hitting on us? I mean, we're nude! For the first time all day I feel disgusted. "You guys smoke?" "No." "Drink?" "No." "Hey, don't you girls have any vices?" "No." (Oh yeah, except, well, we really like having three-ways with strange guys we meet at nudist camps, but you probably wouldn't be into that.) He walks away and we think we've frozen him out. Suddenly he's back, carrying a beach chair. "I saw a nasty accident on the freeway on the way in. I think some people were killed. You guys better stick around for a while. Sure you don't want a beer?" That does it. Time to go.

We say good-bye to Nude Carol and thank her for the hospitality. She invites us to come back anytime and hands us a list of upcoming events: "August 19: Wet T-shirt and Hot Buns contest. September 23: Slave Auction." For all their freedom from convention, the Olive Dell nudists are not very politically correct. We don't get the sense that they take up any cause beyond being nude. It's not like these people are new-age, arty, hippie nudists. This is not a holistic philosophy. They want to say, "We are not different from you, we just want to be nude." They're eatin' meat and smokin' filterless. In the cafe, there's a "We Support Our Boys in the Gulf" bumper sticker -- a window into the soul of the nudist colony, in Alison's opinion.

Well, that was something. We got nude with the nudists. Feeling bold and defiant, we consider driving back to town as we are, but remember the Nudist Motto, "Unclothed when possible, clothed when practical." With bittersweet regret, we slowly get dressed as a man who has the Chinese alphabet tattooed all the way down his side walks past us and waves goodbye.

We get back in the car and start toward Los Angeles. "I wonder if, the next time I have to be nude in front of someone in some capacity, it'll be easier." "I don't know. I think we have already created an image for ourselves in front of our friends. And that image would be non-nudist." "Is this the way we came?" "Yeah, remember we passed 'Hitching Post Beef Jerky'? We have to take a right. Can we?" "What was that? It looked like a chipmunk, but maybe it was a lizard. And there's a chicken hawk or something." "We are in the middle of fuckin' nowhere." "Look at all that smog! It's a dustbowl over there!" "Where's my on-ramp?" "They had really good burgers." "And the fries. The fries were damn good." "I'm hungry again." "Me too." "Didn't you say earlier that you wanted a doughnut?" "An inflatable one, for the pool." "Oh." "There should have been more of the 14 Year-Old Boy naked." "Yeah. I miss him already."

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