Lessons learned sitting around the campfire
Back in the day, when we tent camped with the kids, I was always curious about the inhabitants of those lovely, expandable homes on wheels. How could they call themselves campers, I sniffed indignantly. They had running hot water, shelter if the weather turned foul and slept on a real mattress.
My family didn't commune with nature when I was a kid. Dad's idea of roughing it on vacation was a hotel without a coffee shop in the lobby. Consequently, bedding down with bugs and squatting in tall grass in the middle of nowhere never crossed my radar.
DH was an outdoorsy guy. His weekends growing up were spent in an old military-style tent, with a lumpy air mattress and bugs with more legs than he had. So when he proposed camping as an adventure to share with the kids, I thought he was just being cheap. Why inflate your bed when the ones at a hotel are already made?
But he argued a good case. I agreed to learn about the great outdoors by whitewater rafting down the Deschutes River in Central Oregon.
DH was well-seasoned in hunting, fishing and camping when we married. A decade later, he added whitewater rafting to his outdoor repertoire. A couple years later, he purchased his own equipment. And to make sure I would be comfortable, he bought a self-bailing raft.
Not a confidence builder if you're a rookie to rafting — aren't you sort of in trouble if you have a bail a boat?
I had a birds-eye view of the river from my seat in the front of the raft on a highly padded piece of foam glued to the top of the dry box. Three D-rings on the nose of the boat harnessed my lifeline.
Wait — the steel dry box is bolted to the frame, but I only have a rope to cling to?
We set up camp at Trout Creek Campground near Warm Springs on a Friday, going into the Fourth of July weekend. When the car went back to Maupin with a shuttle driver, I knew we were on a three-day journey that would make or break one of us.
By the end of the weekend, I could set up a dome tent, light a Coleman lantern and leave a low-impact campsite. I came face-to-face with wildlife and decided insect repellent was more important than food.
I even re-tied my lifeline after taking an involuntary swim in one of the rapids.
It was my only trip in that raft. DH sold it a short time later.
Camping and I did become cozy tent mates though. If there was a campground between the coast the high desert during that time, we probably stayed there.
But after several years of excursions into the wilds, I decided DH lied. This was no vacation — I was simply taking my act on the road. Where was the relaxation, soaking up rays, lakeside, with a Corona in my hand? I was busy washing pots and pans in a plastic washtub that held its shape only if it was full of water. There were bug bites, uninvited critters who stole food, and once, a tent full of baby frogs caught and released by my son. I even found the only campsite on Bainbridge Island in Washington with nettles.
Overseeing a household from a scarred picnic table ceased to be fun when I realized there was nothing between me and my neighbors but open space that echoed when you raised your voice.
I began to envy those folks in clean clothes who watched the ongoing circus in the next campsite through their Plexiglass windows.
Someday, I promised myself, I would have that luxury. I'd sit outside my home on wheels, drinking from a real glass and empathize with the poor young mother scraping melted marshmallow from her toddler's hair.
We gave all the camping equipment to Bebe and the Saint (our daughter and son-in-law) years ago. They went once. Obviously, Bebe had the epiphany about camping sooner than I did.
So with my vacation coming, I proposed renting a home on wheels and taking a test run.
"We'll see," DH replied, which generally means "Yeah, that's not gonna happen."
Later that day, he told me he had booked a room in a hotel at the beach for a couple nights. With a coffee shop in the lobby. My dad would be proud.