I used to camp with my parents. We would pack up the van, put the bikes on the front rack, hitch up the trailer, pit the sailboat on top of that and Sanford & son our way to the North Carolina coast. There were a few incidents, like repacking wheel bearings on the road or when my dad’s buddy dropped a trailer on my dad’s foot and dad ended up in a cast, but it was filled with days of playing in the water, riding our bikes around the campground & finding new ways to permantly scar ourselves. It was grand.
At least I remember it grand. That’s probably why I continued to camp well into my forties, bought a few tents, really nice cooking gear, etc. and even figured out how to “air condition” a tent with a cooler, bag of ice & a battery-powered fan. My tent is an instant-up 14×10 two room cabin, my two-burner propane tailgate grill can cook breakfast for 4 while perking coffee. Sure it’s a tight fit for the back of the Subie, but it’s all good right?
It was, until I thought about it.
Blame the bike.
Because it’s a “mini-adventure” bike I had these dreams of riding from campground to campground, popping up my mini-tent, sleeping on my mini-mattress, and seeing America. I admit it – in my heart, I’m a romantic, even if my brain isn’t.
So as I searched for a tent that would fit in my water-proof back-bag, my brain reminded me that, near as I can figure, I haven’t really enjoyed a camping trip since about 1986. I’ve enjoyed the company, the stories, but as for camping, I just don’t have it in me.
I know that because I have a 14×10 tent that, if it wasn’t for the door, I could park my Subie inside it. I can put a 4-5 person tent inside my tent. It has two rooms – and weighs a ton. Why?
Because I once spent a windy 34 degree night in a 36″tall dome tent on an air mattress. I got “chilled to the bone” to the point where I honestly considered wetting myself just to be warm for a few seconds.
That same small tent once tried to kill me in a wind-storm. I was on the ground on a 12 inch tall cot and it kept bending until the fabric covered my face.
The whole time, I’m laying awake thinking someone was stealing our gear.
So I bought a tent that was the size of a suburban house bedroom. I could bring the gear in at night & get one of those queen-sized inflatable beds and really do it right. I can bring the gear in at night (I never have).
Did you know most of the cheap mattresses are either made of latex or use a powder to keep it bendy, but not sticky? I didn’t, until I woke up barely able to breathe. My son, still awake at 3am watching a Jake and the Never land pirates on the DVD player at least looked up from his screen. That same trip? I pinched a nerve in my back going off a diving board & spent hours on a folded out sleeping bag, on that mattress. It was 172.3 degrees and I considered wetting myself just to get cool. OK, not really, just because I didn’t want to try to get up or walk 300 feet to the bath-house.
Which reminds me. Apparently we decided as a culture that campground bath-house technology peaked in 1954. It’s somehow always “more” of the weather outside. If it’s 32 degrees outside, it’s somehow colder on the throne, and taking a shower above 90? Your Deoderant evaporates in the container before your shower is over. And fellas, if you not going to contribute to porcelain fund – find a tree – not the floor. I’m pretty sure that the mixture of hepatitis Z will be created in a campground men’s room & 28 days later, we’re all zombies.
Still though, the view… Is usually of an RV owned by a divorcee who “won” it in court, but is now too busy working to pay for it. It’s little grey satellite calls out to the campground children as the gather around, praying with their little tablets – just hoping there is free WI-fi, but there never is – there never is.
Which is why you wake up at 5am and find little children of the corn leaning on the side of the tent, there little faces pressed up against the netting, watching a 7″ wide screen from the outside. While you try to refocus, one will ask if you have any other DVDs, as if standing outside my tent like little Jason Vorhees at 5am and asking for a favor is perfectly appropriate behavior.
And that’s the another breakdown. When did campgrounds the gathering place of drunk Skynard fans? “Back in my day…” We had our own fields for bonfires, shenanigans & daring do. We didn’t pay $13 a night to howl at the moon next to a dentist that is trying to bond with the kids he never sees. If you’re going to throw .22L ammo into the fire, do it on your own land.
And THAT’s the real problem.
I noticed it yesterday coming in to Louisville. I grew up with my Grandfater’s farm, camping, day trips to the lake and long trips to the beach. I got disconnected from the land somehow. I don’t mean some “mother Gia is angry, so we shall dance to appease her” My mom & dad gave me that (and my first motorcycle). Pulling off on Hurstbourne Lane it took 2 minutes before I got my first honk – for not running a fresh red light.
Living on top of each other just makes us angry, anxious and stressed. It’s a living video game and people lose it. In parking lots, in lines, in traffic, in stores, we now live in a “whatayameanican’tgetfries!!” “Because ma’am, this is a bank” world. Where people pay $8 for coffee & complain about free WI-fi.
People think we’ve “nerfed up” the world with participation trophies and anti-bullying campaigns, while failing to realize it’s an attempt to improve the world. “They’ve taken God out of our schools” – maybe – but they’re trying to bring compassion, mercy, and kindness into the students.
They’re trying to create a world where the Dentist with the $80 adventure zip-off leg pants, luxury SUV and air-conditioned pop-up camper can walk over to a group of drunk Skynard fans and say “Turn it up man,” be handed a frosted beverage and sing “Sweet home Alabama” together at 2 am while some idiot in a mini-tent staggers outside to brave the palm-sized mosquitoes in the campground’s men’s room.
And that’s why I’ll buy a mini-tent, and figure out a way to sleep more comfortably. I’ll buy tiny things and pack them all into a bag that I can strap to the bike and just “go.” When possible, I’ll crash @ the houses of friends, but the preference will be with friends in a field.
Because, while camping hasn’t treated me well – My friend’s always do.
Just give me three steps…