where the writers are
Camping, or: The Crazy Things Humans Do

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

 

            The human race spent a considerable amount of its fortune and creative energy making homes more comfortable: Indoor plumbing, air conditioning, entertainment centers, and the ultimate in accurate brand naming, Lazy Boys. Then, once our domiciles became places where we never had to suffer (except during family dinners), where entertainment and food could be delivered right to our seats …

            We went camping.

            There are people in third world countries who live in tents, cook over an open fire, and dig holes to, shall we say, deposit their waste, and dream of someday leaving that all behind for a one room hut with a hole in the bathroom floor and a rain barrel out back. They think we’re crazy.

            I suppose it makes as much sense as all the other crazy stuff humans do. We could use sprinkler systems to stop the fire-caused loss of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in property. We could wall off Washington, D.C. and start a new capital from scratch, maybe in Kansas. We could live years longer by not indulging in needless poisons like alcohol and reality TV. If we allow all that foolish stuff, why not camp?

            So we did.

            Emily and I spent the weekend early this summer (Yes, I’m that far behind) at Chain O’ Lakes State Park, just a few miles from my home … and so was within driving distance if we forgot something, or if I could talk her into going home and sleeping in a real bed.

The trip started on a high note when the campground gate attendant recognized my name not from a watch list, but because she had my first novel on her Kindle (Several scenes from Storm Chaser are set at Chain O’ Lakes).

            It was all pretty much downhill from there.

            Emily and I have different tastes in camping. She was a Girl Scout, and basically spent every summer of her entire life in a camp. They wouldn’t let me join the Girl Scouts. I refused to enter the Boy Scouts because there were no girls.


That's all she needs: A tent, a hatchet, and two sticks to rub together. I needed enough sticks to build a house.

            So for her, camping is pointless if you can’t haul whatever you need on your back. That would only work for me if I was The Incredible Hulk, and so could carry a full sized recreational vehicle. “Hulk warm and comfortable!”

            She needs a tent the size of my bathtub, a sleeping bag, and a multipurpose knife. I need internet connectivity.

            Who am I kidding? I also need a satellite hookup, a fridge, a real bed, and a freaking toilet. However, I draw the line at taking anything that won’t fit into the RV, or on its roof and sides, or in the truck that’s towing it, or in the camp store.

            We compromised and took what would fit in a 2005 Ford Focus. It wasn’t much.

            Still, at least I didn’t have to figure out anything myself; Emily pitched a tent while I pitched a fit, built a fire while I built toward a nervous breakdown, and cooked an amazing dish called a shipwreck (and S ’mores) while I … ate.

            My biggest contribution to the whole thing was buying fresh batteries to fire up every single source of light in the house, which amounted to 38 flashlights and lamps of various kinds and sizes. That was Plan B. Plan A didn’t work because there wasn’t enough extension cord in the whole town to reach the nearest outlet.

            I just don’t like the dark. Never have. Sure, my Scout gal made fun of me, but I’d like to think she appreciated the little circle of light beams I set up around the tent … especially once the coyotes started howling at midnight. Did you know we had coyotes? There’s never a Road Runner around when you need one.

            I’d forgotten just how dark it can get in the middle of nowhere at night, and I’d also forgotten just how loud insects and animals can get in that selfsame pitch darkness. Between that and relearning that the hard ground is, by definition, hard … well, I didn’t get much sleep that night. Next time I’m bringing a tractor, plow, and disk, and I’m going to fluff that ground up to then make it as smooth and soft as possible.

            Or, I’ll buy an air mattress.

            It’s the best I can do, because not only can I not afford that big RV, but Emily’s made it clear that anything beyond a little extra padding is out of the question. Not that I won’t get a little extra padding of my own, if she keeps making those S ’mores.

I suppose I should be happy to have a woman who isn’t into a lot of extra luxuries.

            But next time, could we at least haul in a Porta-Potty?


Our tent, our cooler, our car, our breakfast. That's me behind the camera.