Posted tagged ‘travel’

The Great American Camp Out

July 8, 2009

   There is no question about it – especially to my Facebook friends.  -this past weekend was not the best of my camping experiences.  And I have had a life time of them.  I am a camper from WAY, way back.  Back in the olden days way back. 

    When I was a kid, my dad would come home from work on Friday and we would toss  sleeping bags, a bottled gas stove, a food cooler and a tent in the back of the car and take off for any of Michigan’s camping destinations.  No need for reservations (see what I mean about the ‘olden days?’).  Muskegon, Grayling, Petoskey, Onaway, Grand Haven, Harrison, Gaylord, Ludington, etc. were all destinations that I knew well.  Eventually we chucked the tent and slept on the cushioned table/bed my father built into his new van.  Then in the interest of ‘privacy’, I acquired a pup tent for my 12th birthday and slept in that.  We also gained a very cool, MASH type walled tent (which I eventually learned how to put up all by myself!) from an uncle who took a busload of kids sight seeing out west. 

     My parents fiddled with the idea of purhasing some sort of camping set up.  We once borrowed a covered wagon pop up from a neighbor.  It rained for most of our trip that time.  They eventually got a small  trailer…and then a motor home.  That motor home became their home on wheels for a while as they tried longer and longer trips after retirement.

     When my husband and I started dating, we camped – with his girls – in a domed tent….with a bottle gas stove, a food cooler and sleeping bags.  One of our first purchases as a married couple was a pop up camper.  We loved it.  We used it for weekend camping and then took it – and the girls – on a trip down the Atlantic coast.  That trip is now affectionately  referred to as the ‘vacation from h-e-double hockey sticks.’  Two premenstrual teenagers in a van for two weeks.  WHATwere we thinking?  Before the Prince arrived from Korea, we had upgraded to a camper.   And at word we would be adding the Princess to our family, we needed something with two bunks for growing kids.  That is our current camping rig.  And we have used it…alot.

     We have camped over Easter weekend in April and as late as Halloween weekend in the fall.   We have camped in private parks and public campgrounds….as well as an occasional available state park.  We have camped where you can explore lighthouses, old forts and beaches.  We have taken the trailer to Kentucky – where my sister’s family joined us from South Carolina.  My children have lots of memories of fireside chats, games of flashlight tag and cooking outside in the cool morning air.  But they don’t have the same memories I have of camping.    We generally camp more locally now.   Camping  in this Great Lake state is no longer something you can do on a whim.  You have to plan ahead.  Reservations are necessary for the best state parks and people begin booking them in January.  

      As  our involvement in soccer has increased, we have had to spend our free weekends – and pennies – on soccer games and soccer tournaments.  In the past two years we have only taken our camper out of storage four – maybe five – times.  We miss it.  That’s why we jumped at the open opportunity to do some camping last week. 

      We did some scurrying to repair a malfunctioning refrigerator in the trailer and got a spot in a local county camping facility.   Our kids love it there.  There is lots to keep them busy.  They can fish and swim and skateboard and ride bikes and snooze.  The pavilion hosts organized dodge ball games, puppet shows, craft activities, nature talks and a DJ at night.  And there is a wonderful fire pit at each site.  Perfect for sitting around and talking.  And then there is the added bonus of being on site for a perfect 4th of July fire works display.

      But this year, it wasn’t fun for me for some reason.  It didn’t feel like ….camping.  I was constantly picking up wet towels and dirty clothes.  There were ants on my table.  Fires were irritatingly smoky.  And it rained.  Alot.  The upside of camping close to home is that you can come home.  And I did.  For one night.   Then we all came home with smoke smelling laundry, aa few left over groceries and satisfied smiles. 

     Inspired by a writing prompt from a new blog I have found, Mama’s Losin’ It, I did a lot of thinking about my camping history.  And here are my thoughts: 

List 5 things you like to do while camping

1. Cook breakfast outside.   While I am not a voracious bacon lover, there really is nothing like the smell of cooking bacon in the crisp morning air at a campground.  Nothing.

2. Play in fire.  This is a delight that has been handed down to my children.  I can build a great fire by stacking wood both tee pee and cabin style.  So can they.   Our problem is we like those roaring flames a wee bit too much.  And bright red tips on the ends of your poking stick.  And s’mores.  And putting in things to see how long it takes them to be ‘transformed’ by fire.  Fortunately we also know how to safely put a fire out. 

3. Read outside in the sun.  I keep a collection of my favorite paperback books in the drawer next to my bed in the trailer.  Having not seen them in a year and a half, I was like a fool at a reunion this time.  Five books in three days.  Sheesh.

4, Play games with other campers.  I think this was my problem last weekend.  My family was off and doing their own thing.  We have generally camped with friends and there was always someone to play a game with me.  Rummicube has long been a favorite.  There is nothing in that game that can be blown away in the breeze.

5. Relax.  Slow down the pace.  Even if it was a Labor Day camping outing and I had a bag full of stuff to get ready for a new school year, there is something about doing it under the trees that is relaxing.  Soooo relaxing.

And I am adding:

5 things I hate about camping

1. Packing the camper.

2. Unpacking the camper

3. Too much rain

4. Too much smoke and smoky laundry

5. Ants on my table.  I realize they come with the territory but this time they REALLY bugged me.  I squashed the little suckers.  Me.  Who has the reputation of catching insects and setting them free outside.

      I am beginning to think that I have outgrown the camping thing.  All of the soccer tourney weekends are spent in hotels…..with spacious showers and air conditioning and comfortable beds and complimentary breakfast bars.  Our road trip to Boston last summer was spent in hotels.  With all of the above.  I am kind of liking that kind of travel. 

    So I am thinking of planning an Oregon Trail road trip for next summer.  So my kids can get a real  feel of our country’s history.  The stuff they are reading about in school.  Only with the hotels and motels and showers and beds and complimentary breakfast bars.  Or maybe we’ll rough it and just skip the breakfast bars.