Man spent thousands of years in the wilderness, scrounging for food, dodging danger and searching for a safe precursor to toilet paper. After finally conquering agriculture, domesticating many animals, and inventing Charmin, Americans now spend millions each year to go back into the woods.
In movies and on TV, camping is presented as being utopia. Even medication ads for older, less functional men seem to indicate that a pill and a pup tent are all a happy couple needs.
But the truth is, for most people, camping is miserable.
I can’t remember one camping trip in my entire life that didn’t include rain, sunburn, mosquitoes, chiggers, rain, fire ants, burnt food, or, don’t forget, rain.
When I was a preteen, my parents bought a pop up camper. Typical of most affordable early 1970’s small RV’s, it was pulled behind the family car (in our case a Buick) to a campsite completely devoid of modern conveniences.
Arriving at the campground, my dad would proceed to grunt as he worked to level the camper. Then a handle, that was reminiscent of a Model T crank, would appear and be placed in the side of the camper, then turned until the unit stretched upward, outward, and into place. This scene was followed by my father collapsing.
The inside of the camper had a small central area where a Coleman Stove sat. Each end contained thin foam mattress pads for sleeping.
Our activities included sweating, itching, being bored, and not sleeping.
When the trip was over, which seemed more like parole from a 10-year prison sentence, we would load back into the Buick and head home; dreaming of Captain Kangaroo, Captain Crunch, central air conditioning and normalcy.
When my childhood camping years came to a close, I swore that I’d never go camping again.
Fast forward to marriage.
My first wife announces one day that we were going to take our then two small sons camping. Never mind the fact that we owned no camping gear, one son was barely out of diapers, and that I hated camping.
After purchasing enough camping gear to put each Wal Mart stockholder’s kids through college, off we went to a campsite, once again completely devoid of modern conveniences.
Not being able to afford the traditional pop up camper, we set up our new tent, stove and the rest of our campsite.
A few hours later, it began to rain. And it rained some more. And then some more. It rained so hard that you couldn’t see anything.
And then it began to flood. Lightning danced around us.
The only thing preventing our tent, us, and everything else from floating away were the tent stakes.
I finally convinced her that for our safety, we had to leave.
Putting her and the two boys into our new minivan, I pulled the tent stakes, left everything inside the tent, wadded it into a ball, and shoved it into the back of the vehicle.
I got into the driver’s seat. When the water finally stopped pouring out of my ears, I could hear her asking me, “So, what are we going to do now?”
It was a quiet ride back to my parents, which was the closest place from the campground that we could seek shelter.
When I awoke the next morning, the sun was out and it was a beautiful day. I searched for a good place on top of which I could lay the tent, sleeping bags, and everything else to dry.
Fortunately, my parents’ pop up camper, which hadn’t been used in 20 years, was available.
©2016 John Moore
For more of John’s musings, visit johnmoore.net/blog
(photo credit: popupportals.com)