Jonathan and I were recently talking about people who want to “leave everything behind and just run away to the mountains” to escape their mundane existence, their horrible jobs, their extended family’s Christmas plans that suck up your own personal vacation time and leave you with a poorly fitting handmade sweater you have to feign delight in, some bad pictures and indigestion – you know that impulse, the one that says ‘you and me and the wilderness – now THAT would be living” The gist of it was that people want to escape their lives and this was a convenient way to express it. We agreed that for us, the lack of technology would always keep us close to home… or at least civilization.
I may dream of running away to some remote unreachable location, but the sad fact is I could never be out of reach of cable, internet service, air conditioning, pizza delivery or UPS. I recognize that I desperately depend on these things and that being in the middle of the jungle where I must machete path to my house isn’t conducive to my personal living style. Not to mention, if Orkin can’t reach it to spray down the tarantulas and wrestle the pythons, I have no business being there. I’m just not a fan of bugs, underbrush, wild animals and angry villagers AND I’m definitely not sleeping anywhere that requires buckets of Off and mosquito netting.
See, I wasn’t made of the same stuff that drove my ancestors out of Europe to settle places like Jamestown (the 2nd settlement) or board the Mayflower (true story). That gene that made people think loading up into a Conestoga wagon to answer the call of Manifest Destiny were long diluted by a recessive gene for weaniness. In fact, if you were to transport me back to the 1700’s and someone said “Elizabeth, go forth to ye ol’ Colonies” verily I would die before ever stepping onto some rickety boat – forget making it to the inevitable scalping (which would happen exactly 5 minutes after I survived the boat, because my life is nothing if not ironic.)
And with all that said, let me add that I also hate camping, which is a lot like running away to the mountains only you usually get to go home after two sleepless nights and one too many marshmallows. Blame one too many camping trips in Girl Scouts that finally tipped the scales or that trip to Inks Lake where it rained and the other campers insisted we eat gourmet food (hot dogs were too pedestrian for their tastes). But here are some facts about camping I’ve come to take to heart:
• When you pitch your tent, no matter how flat the land looks you’re always on top of some unperceivable hill – the apex of the hill will always be in the dead center of your tent so that when you go to lay out your sleeping bag, your head will ALWAYS be facing downhill. Nothing like a head rush to go with your lack of sleep.
• When you are laying your sleeping bag down that hill, you will also have failed to notice the large boulder you threw your tent over in the first place. You’ll discover it in the dead center of your back when exhaustion forces you to go to sleep.
• If you camp at a KOA, you will end up with your sleeping bag in someone’s old, deep tire ruts. (Again, no matter how flat the land looked BEFORE you threw up the tent.)
• If you don’t pull the flaps down on your tent in a rainstorm but instead sit in wonder, your tent will flood. However, if you whine enough about your personal bedding being soaked and keep everyone else from sleeping, they’ll always share their dry bedding.
• If your flaps are down in the rainstorm, you’ll always mistakenly touch the sides of the tent which will again lead to a flood. Be sure to try to climb a muddy hill the next day that is greater than 45 degrees for some mudsliding adventures. Nothing says “I love camping” more than mudstreaks down your torso.
• The air never moves when you camp.
• Fire ants like camping, too. So do raccoons.
• Stories about Cthulhu told around the campfire are not scary. It’s best to snore and be disruptive.
• Stories about a young couple listening to the radio about a serial killer with a hook for one his arms who speed off from the make out spot only to later find a bloodied hook attached to their own car ARE scary and should be avoided.
• Smores are overrated.
• Burnt marshmallows with hangar coating are also overrated (unless they’re that perfect brown toasted gooey yumminess that your friend is enjoying after your blackened marsh-nub fell into the fire).
• Banana boats in the Girl Scout tradition are underrated. (Cut out a V shaped wedge out of the top of your banana, set the top to the side, fill the banana with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips, replace the wedge and wrap the banana in aluminum foil – stick into the heart of your fire and wait about 5-10 minutes – retrieve banana, pull back the peel of the wedge leaving the banana “meat” behind, grab a spoon and dig in!) (Ask me for more GREAT camping recipes! I have several that are both fun and yummy! Hey, Girl Scouts was good for something.)
• The natural habitat for a newt is the community toilet. (It is possible to go hours and hours without using the restroom upon this discovery – your kidneys and bladder love this kind of challenge. Oh and guys with their natural ability to pee standing up to avoid the rare Toilet Newt, suck.)
• Campgrounds typically don’t have wireless networks set-up for your disposal, Denny’s is not across the parking lot
• Building the world’s perfect bonfire while shooting cans from the hip on someone’s private property is the only perfect camping activity. Embrace your inner hick.
• If the smoke from the bonfire is hitting you in the face, it will follow you wherever you move. Your only salvation is to say “I hate rabbits”. The smoke will head in a different direction because what self respecting smoke would bless a rabbit hater. It’s true – try finding anything on Snopes to the contrary.
These days my preference for camping involves the words “4 star”, “pampered” or “luxury”. And where I used to mock people who brought out their big ol’ trailers, I now see the wisdom. The only camping or “running away” I want to do these days have the words “Motel 6” attached to them – where it’s a lot like roughing it in since they typically don’t offer a “continental breakfast” (which to La Quinta means bad coffee and donuts) and the cable choices are limited. However, you might get the “magic fingers” that you seldom find in the Hilton. God bless the mini-fridge!