Mind Candy

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Camping nightmares – It isn’t always Jason Voorhees that spoils the weekend

Posted by mandyf on May 18, 2012

How a girl that grew up camping turned into a woman that considered roughing it meant not having concierge service is beyond me even if I am the girl/woman in question. From as young an age as I can remember I was gathering deadwood, cleaning fish, and so enamored with camping I insisted on sleeping out in the backyard in my tent if we weren’t camping. I never realized how much times changed until a few years ago.

For a stretch of several years we did very little camping and when we did it was beach camping that generally wound up being more expensive than a weekend at the Ritz Carlton. Everyone wanted to camp with us. Why wouldn’t they, after all how many camped with a mini home entertainment system, gourmet food, and ergonomically correct sleeping pads? I even looked into outsourcing having our campsite set up before we arrived but oddly enough there was no listing for any such service in the yellow pages.

When our daughter reached ten she went on her first camping trip with someone other than us which was a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because we had a very quiet weekend at home, and a curse because she saw a different side of camping and really liked it. With our own camping trip only a few weeks away she began relating how we didn’t camp like real people. We didn’t rough it. She didn’t think we could hack a week of camping the way she assumed camping was supposed to be. The insane way her friends family did it. No matter how much I tried to impress upon her that camping didn’t have to mean eating only food cooked over a fire ring and that “roughing it” might be fun for a day or two but not a week she was unswayed. My little girl said I couldn’t hack it and I had a point to prove.

What I should have done was said “I’m the mom and I make the decisions.” It’s no secret women really run the world anyway, but somehow she got it in her mind that at ten she was a woman and ready to take her turn at the wheel and call the shots. What a mistake. As we packed many of my cozy creature comforts were gone. No down filled pillow, no cot, no television, no generator, and certainly no warm water filled foot massager. Who was going to rub my feet? This all sounded like no fun. At least I put my foot down on an eat what you catch excursion or we would have likely starved.

The first two days weren’t too bad even if I hadn’t slept well and found myself getting the jitters worried about what was happening on my soaps. I spent more time fretting over whether I set the Tivo correctly than I did about gnats and random crawly creatures. Maybe she was right and I didn’t know how to rough it anymore. I was exhausted and decided day three would be much better as I was bound to get a good nights sleep. Somehow I was the only one that was distraught over being away from the spoils of home. Actually everyone seemed to think severing my electronic umbilical cord was a good thing but what do they know? I worked hard all my life to camp in luxury, not this. There wasn’t even a laundry facility or hot water showers. I was aghast.

Sadly no sleep came easily or for long. I spent another night tossing and turning which made that third day a haze. I smelled something bad and I’m pretty sure it was me. Just after dinner I nodded off but only for an hour at best. I felt energized when the family began getting ready to bed down so I said I would secure the site for the night. I sat by the fire and slowly nodded off. Being exhausted physically and mentally is a great sleeping aide.

While being over tired did help me sleep it also made me…how do I put this kindly? It made me stupid. Everything I ever learned about camping went out the window. I rested before my work was done, or even started, and I nodded off only a couple feet from the fire. When I woke up I had everything done. At least my mind said I did when I crawled into the tent.

Actually nothing was done. I forgot to latch the cooler and by morning everything was gone or partially gnawed laying around as far as the eye could see which is of course the universal welcome mat for everything that has ever crawled, flown, or walked on four legs. I let the fire go out too. I’m not sure if that was as upsetting as the strong smell of nature that only occurs when multiple creatures use your site and surrounding area as a toilet. As if on cue the breeze I prayed for to circulate the air only made things worse and swirled the aroma of scat, urine, and spoiled food an dairy which is never good. Be careful what you wish for.

I hurriedly scampered around trying to clean the area without actually touching anything. I had a manicure to think of and everything just looked so icky and dirty. I walked around with a somewhat sharp stick trying to stab every vestige of the previous nights invasion to no avail. I wasted so much time everyone woke up and saw the product of my oversight. Faced with the prospect of my daughter seeing me act like such a priss, I began picking up these once edible tidbits with my bare hands and concocted a story about how I had to fend off rabid raccoons, and a small pack of wolves with just my little poking stick. It was pitched but nobody was buying.

I insisted on cleaning it up myself, but why I have no idea. What is the point of having kids, much less taking them camping if you can’t make them do the gross stuff? Especially when they set the ground rules! Within twenty minutes or so I had everything I could reasonably see picked up but there had to be more out there because the insect situation was fierce. Hordes of assorted flying things were dive bombing me like kamikaze pilots, Judging by the increased number of bird droppings I am guessing I just missed an aerial assault by them too. Everything is okay I reassured myself, I’ll just take a ride to the grocery and get more food. Maybe I would check into a motel real quick too and take a shower. It would be an expensive cleansing but well worth it.

I got into the van and flipped the ignition. I don’t even have to tell you what the sound was when I flipped over the ignition. Click click. Click click. Immediately I knew that was the product of my daughter turning on the car to listen to the radio rather than wear down the batteries in her mp3 player because recharging it in the car lighter would have made too much sense. More sense in fact than me or Mary realizing we should keep an eye on any such thing as having a live car battery. No problem, I’ll call AAA and they’ll be here and take care of everything.

Something I never knew was AAA, as an organization, is not a big fan of hunting for locations that aren’t on the map. They aren’t crazy about trying to locate you off GPS co-ordinates that may or may not be accurate. That’s not really so bad. What is bad is realizing everyone is at work and you need to call your retired father in law to come find you and charge your battery after he has insisted for nearly a month I was not cut out for “real” camping anymore as I had become spoiled and soft. I considered allowing us to all sit there like the Donner party and just dehydrate to death, but if I did that I would never know if I correctly programmed the Tivo. It was quite a dilemma.

Of course I caved in and made the call. I’m here writing this so you know I must have. Of course I turned the key in the ignition another fifty or so times expecting, praying, for a different result, which is by the way a sure sign of insanity. Dad made it down to us in a little over two hours. I can only assume it was because he couldn’t decide which black socks looked best with brown sandals. While the battery was charging he felt compelled to tell me what real camping was, camping on a Pacific island during the war under gunfire living off cans of Spam alongside guys named Cleveland from New York and Tex from Omaha.

While the whole food situation was a minor mess, any visit from a bitter old father in law full of lectures makes it a nightmare of mythic proportions. He offered to stay awhile and show us how to set up a real campsite, which the way he described it sounded more like a defensive perimeter sans the machine gun nests, but I declined. Anyway I think it must have violated some state regulation to dig battle trenches with punji stick bottoms. I’m not positive about that, just guessing.

Was it really all that bad though? Nah, I’ve seen worse. My daughter realized she was a bit more princess than she thought and missed all the creature comforts mom brings along. My partner was happy we were cutting the trip off early and going home so she could spend the remainder of the week off in the garden. I was happy because before the ride home was over we were all laughing about it. Maybe only parts of it were a nightmare. I just know the next time we rough it, perish it ever actually happen, I’m buying a back-up car battery to stick in the storage space. Just in case.

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