Friday, June 11, 2010

Laura Ingalls and the Whitie Tightie Strangler

I love, love, love camping! For those that know me, and know me well, this still comes as quite a shock. As soon as we get home from a camping trip, I want to go again. I didn't grow up a camper. In fact, I don't think camping was, or is, in my mother's vocabulary word bank.

Lately I have been trying to figure out what I love so much about camping. Especially given that our first few experiences were memorable in that "Don't make me relive it again" kind of way. It all started when we were coming home from soccer and on the side of the road we saw a pop up camper. It looked adorable...like a little playhouse. On a whim, we pulled over to take a look and $175 later we were pulling away with our first pop up camper. It was late October so the only camping trip we made was in our backyard. We lit the chiminea, made s'mores, and slept in the pop up. We played games by lantern and had a good old fashioned family time. To this day, it is still one of our favorite memories.

Tim opened up the camper in the spring to "air it out" and discovered that a large mouse family with irritable bowel syndrome had moved in. Tim tried to tell me it would be as good as new once he cleaned it out but there was no way my children and I were EVER going to sleep in there again. EVER. We bid a speedy goodbye to our pop up.

Next thing I know, Tim is on the hunt for a new one and I have to admit, I was still interested...but in a clean, mouse free pop up. We found one in early summer and immediately headed to Truro for our first real camping trip. It all started out great...we set up our site, had a great day at the beach, made dinner on the grill, made s'mores, played games by lantern, and then the kids went to bed. Tim and I shared a bottle of wine and played Rummy (best card game ever). Soon enough I had to use the loo and although there was a potty in the pop up (which doubled as a seat) Tim was adament that it remain in use only for emergency purposes. I stepped out of the dark of night with my lantern swinging...my shadow ominously accompanied me along the way. The hair on my arms was standing at attention and I wore my "I am totally aware of everything going on around me and I will take you out if you attack me" face. I had visions of opening up the bathroom door to a creepy camper guy with a knife...my screams would be drowned out by the crickets as he made mince meat out of me. I quickly hustled back to the camper and this is where things got dicey. I could feel someone watching me and there off to my right was a large man hanging out on the perimeter of his campsite. And when I say hanging out I mean, leaning on his pick up truck clad in only a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, and whitie tighties that went from his belly button to his thighs. He was rockin' granny whitie tighties. And just a side note, he wasn't in fantastic shape and he was hairy. The ember from his cigarette glowed as it dangled from his mouth. He raised his Pabst Blue Ribbon at me and said "Evenin' darlin." I thought, "Is he kidding me with this?!" There I was in my adorable navy blue a-line skirt, pink polo shirt with the collar popped, my pearls (of course), and my martini flip flops. Really?? Was he really thinking I might want a piece of him??!! The nerve.

The next spring we decided to take a pop up road trip so off we ventured to Washington DC for April vacation. We stayed at Cherry Hill Park in College Park, Maryland, just outside of the city. The first day when you arrive at a campground is what I affectionately call "the honeymoon period". You've made it...you are thankful the camper didn't fly off the hitch at 70 mph, the campground always looks great (at first), the staff seems so happy to see you, and then you give the kids soda and candy so you can set up in peace. Who isn't happier right then? We had a great first day and then the rain moved in. It drizzled in the beginning and we hugged the kids and said "C'mon...this is an adventure. It will be fun!" Two days later when the rain was falling so hard we thought it is going to rip the canvas, it was clear the adventure had turned into a nightmare. It continued to pour buckets our ENTIRE vacation. The canvas began dripping inside, subjecting us to Chinese water torture at night. Everything was damp...all the time. Our towels, our clothes, our blankets. The sun came out just in time to say goodbye to us as we rolled away. Somehow I walked away still wanting to camp, but with some provisions.

I needed shelter from the rain. I needed my own bathroom. I needed to feel more secure should the Whitie Tightie Strangler come looking for me again. Tim gladly went on the hunt again and came back with a hybrid travel trailer. It has a full size fridge, a 3 burner stove, a bathroom with shower, 2 queen pop out beds, heat, and even a/c! We have been camping in it since last year and we are loving every minute of it! On the left, you will see a new section called "Campgrounds We Love, Love, Love!" in hopes we can convince you to camp, camp, camp.

So, what is it that I like so much about camping? Well, as I mentioned earlier, a camper is like a little playhouse. I have decorated it with Nantucket baskets and pink and green dishtowels. My very own preppy playhouse. Who wouldn't love that?

Camping gives you permission to slow down your hectic life. The only time commitments are those you impose yourself. You can get up when you want to and go to bed when you are tired. Interestly enough, we never stay up late when we camp because we are so tired from taking it easy.

We eat delicious meals, often getting our food from local farmer's markets. You can eat burgers & dogs if you want, but you don't have to. Sometimes we eat better when we camp because we have the time. The kids keep telling me I should write a camping cookbook. I'll share some camping recipes with you from time to time....they aren't fancy or anything but I do have to admit, my steak tacos are to die for!

Camping brings out the most simplistic living. I feel like Laura Ingalls without the bad dress and combat boots. Since space is tight, it makes you really think about what you need, and don't need, to live comfortably. Believe me, you don't need most of it. When you camp, life is uncomplicated. You connect with nature and just enjoy being outside. We fish, hike, ride bikes, walk, explore. We play lots of games, have great conversation, laugh a lot, and hug a lot more. We really connect as a family, enjoy each other's company, and the kids fight less and play more together. I feel at peace and when I camp, I am most like myself. I don't want to be stressed, I don't want to lose my temper with the kids, or be running around like a chicken with my head cut off. But in all honesty, it's hard to remain calm all the time and fit everything in that needs to be done at home. We can't camp all the time and we can't keep running at the speed of light either. Camping isn't for everyone but finding the right thing for you and your family that allows you to take the time to destress and reconnect is essential.

5 comments:

  1. Have you figured out how to post pics? I'd love to see one of your latest camper???

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree! That is why Matt and I are going to try camping (no tents, though) with the fam this year. Thanks for the reinforcement that it can be what we're looking for - good family fun (sans tightie whitie guy).

    btw - the IBS-suffering mice almost made me spit out my water!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Awesome....I hope to get an invite and enjoy Nealon Camping trip sometime in the future!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Now I want my own playhouse/camper... ;-]

    ReplyDelete
  5. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/04/books/04preppy.html c
    ould be good resource

    ReplyDelete