Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Roughin' It Ain't Easy

Lot’s of folks assume that because I am from Idaho it means that I am a hardened outdoorsy person who loves the smell of pine and the rugged uncharted countryside, and that I can do things that are woodsy, like camp. But they would be mistaken. In my opinion there is only one civilized form of camping and it is called ‘staying in a hotel.’ I like to take my cues from the president. When he “camps” he stays at Camp David, otherwise known as the Taj Mahal of the outdoors. It comes with a maid, a chef, and 20 highly trained secret service agents ready to blow wild animals to bits. That is my kind of nature experience.

Why do people get excited about camping? What is so fun about hiking out into the middle of nowhere and pretending you are homeless? I have had friends tell me that they go camping to “get away from it all.” What I would like to know is: Get away from what? City services like running water, police and fire departments? Or is it the hospital, paved roads and toilets that flush? Maybe they are trying to get away from me. If so, then camping is an excellent way to hide, because I would never go looking for them.

Now, I used to camp with my parents when I was a kid. Let’s just say, I have mostly forgiven them. I still have nightmares about the 15 person green canvas tent and blue shorty-bus my parents made us take on camping excursions. Fifteen kids, 2 dogs and no indoor plumbing; conquering the wild outdoors in a baby-blue mini-bus that was only prone to breakdown on long stretches of lonesome highway during record high temperatures—ahhh, memories.

When I went camping with my parents it was do or die. It did not matter what was going on around us (or to us) this was our “vacation” so we would press-on no matter what. A tire blows out, we keep going. Lose the car keys in a lake, we keep going. Someone complains of extreme stomach cramping that may/or may not be attributed to acute appendicitis and/or a ruptured spleen . . . we just keep on camping. Once when we were vacationing in the Payette Lake area an epidemic of stomach flu began to circulate in our troop. First one of the little kids exhibited signs of illness, then another, and another. It was like watching a Mack truck getting ready to plow into you. You knew it was coming; you were just waiting for the crash. We begged our parents to take us home, but they would not relent.

One night, after several very troublesome hours of trying to sleep next to my flatulent brother; I hobbled to the outhouse and just got the door pushed open as I started to exhibit the tell-tale signs of gastro-intestinal distress. In the dark, with no flashlight and barely able to stand upright, my bowels unleashed a fury the likes I had never seen before or since. My aim had been exceptionally poor and the contents of my stomach now coated the entire inside of the outhouse, unfortunately, there was nothing I could do about it at two in the morning. Sick and weak, I barely made it back to my tent before collapsing. In the morning, I was headed to the bathroom for another bout of heaving when my brother warned, “Be careful someone spilled bean soup all over in the outhouse.”

The ride home from that trip only got worse. An hour on the road my sister said she didn’t feel well and that she needed to get out of the car. My mother turned to my father and said, “Dear you need to pull over.”
My dad said, “Ok, let me find a good spot.”
As my sister continued to writhe and swoon in her seat, my mother said a little more firmly, “Dear, you need to pull over, soon.”
Then my dad said, “I know, I am looking for a good spot.”
My mother glanced fearfully at my sister and then to my father and said, “Dear . . .”

That is the exact moment when my sister’s vomit smacked my mother in the back of the head.

After my mother’s cranium recoiled from the force of spewage slapping her in the skull, she turned to my father, (who was still looking for a good spot to pull over) and tried to kill him with her eyes. When the car finally did come to a stop, everyone filed out at record pace, well, except for the dogs. Over the commotion I could hear someone say: “Oooooooo gross, the dogs are eating it!”

I assumed that when I got married I had finally escaped the camping extravaganza, but sadly, no. I married into a family of outdoor fanatics. My husband however, is the worst. Survivor-man has nothing on this guy. He doesn’t believe in bringing along luxuries like pillows and food. His list of camping necessities to pack has only 7 items on it, and includes the following:

1 box of granola bars (breakfast)
1 pkg of hotdogs (lunch and dinner)
Toilet Paper (to start the fire and, well, uh . . . you know)
Leatherman multi-tool (used to whittle sticks for cooking hotdogs)
Matches (to build the fire to roast hotdogs)
Sleeping Bag (our only protection from the elements)
Extra Underwear (well, if you are going to face hungry cougars and bears, you may need lots of these)

Yes, he likes to take our whole family camping, presumably to bond and get back to the basics of life. I have to say, it does accomplish both of those. I spend the whole time praying that if God preserves my life I will never again go to a place for a vacation where I surround myself with small children and a husband so sick of hot dogs they are ready to eat me Donner-party style.

Now, because of my lack of outdoor experience you may assume that I know nothing about the wild, or that I have no sense of adventure. This is not the case. Have you ever been to a Double-Tree during wedding season? How about trying to park at the grade-school Christmas program when you are 10 minutes late and are in charge of costumes and 2 Shepherd’s? How about running errands with 2 toddlers who have missed their nap and didn’t eat their lunch? Trust me; I know about wildness and adventure, it is just a different kind.

Now I performed a quasi-scientific survey among friends and family and found that the number one reason that people like to camp is the quiet. The absence of noise is really what drives the desire for roughing it. So if this is the case with you, I have come up with a list of quiet places to hide out, er I mean hang out, and get a camping fix without having to pack up your tent.

Library (Upside: Temperature controlled environment; Downside: They will make you pay for any books used to start your campfire)

Mortuary/Funeral Home (Upside: You will be completely alone; Downside: Does not have that fresh pine smell)

Golf Course (Upside: Wide open spaces with varied terrain; Downside: Know the sprinkler schedule or plan on having soggy s’mores)

Cemetery (Upside: Lots of interesting “rock” formations; Downside: Watch out for large crevices)

As summer made its official end last week, I can toast the fact that I made it through another camping season. Here’s to a 9 month reprieve before next summer rolls around. Until then, I will be enjoying the cold weather and blustery skies. Secure in the knowledge that the only time I will be getting back to nature this fall and winter is on a few random Saturdays when I choose to go without makeup.