Thursday, January 13, 2011

Here's All I Know About Camping

July 1968

  Everybody’s doing it. Camping, that is. At least that what a lot of our acquaintances say.
  So that we can intelligently converse with these acquaintances who take to the highways and woods with trailers, campers and tents, we decided we had better see what the fuss is all about. So we went shopping for a camper— to rent, not to buy.
  In the rental lot, the kids were lured by the sight of the long luxurious trailers and motor homes that contain all the necessities of life.
  “If we’re going to live in a place that looks like home, we might as well live at home for the week!,” Mean Old Dad decreed.
  (Besides that, the cost of renting a self-contained trailer for one week approached the monthly bank mortgage payment of the house.)
  SO WE SETTLED for a camper that looks like a box on wheels. By pulling here and pushing there, it pops up into a combination tent and trailer. This one, according to the literature, slept eight, had a two burner stove, a very small ice box and a very, very small sink for scrubbing dishes and self.
  Since this was a maiden voyage, we decided to make it a rather short and simple trip. Our destination was Pinery Provincial Park, north of Sarnia, just a two hour jaunt from Rochester. Arriving on a Sunday morning, we found the place rather full. But we located a cozy spot among the towering pines only a few sand dunes away from Lake Huron. By Sunday night, we noticed that the place was emptying out fast. By Monday morning we found ourselves nearly alone.
  “WHERE DID everybody go?” I asked the lady at the general store. Here it is the middle of June and the place is about empty.”
  My informant divulged that the Canadian schools are in session until the end of June. But the real reason, she added almost apologetically, is that it’s too early in the season yet for the crowds. June in Canada, you see, is a might nigh cold. As a result, the Canadian campers stay for just the weekend. The only ones left were the uninformed ones from Michigan.
  It didn’t take long to figure out what she was talking about. Sunday night was cold enough. Monday was even colder. Tuesday night was colder yet. Water in the lake was like ice, although we did brave a plunge one day.
  THEN THERE WAS the problem of five humans existing in a room somewhat larger than a closet. At least 34 times I hit my head on the light fixture on the ceiling. Since we had no electricity, the lumps were taken for a completely useless cause.
  I also made the mistake of bringing a one-gallon jug to haul water from the water supply down the road. You just don’t realize how much water five people use until it has to be carried in one gallon lots.
  There is also the problem of how to wash a plate measuring 11 inches in diameter in a sink that is only 7 inches wide. (The answer: Buy a big plastic pan and washes your dishes outside. Better yet, use paper plates.) And how do you cook a meal on two small burners that take a half hour to heat a tea pot of water? (The answer: Bring your own charcoal grill and do your cooking outside.)
  And how do you keep warm on a 40-degree night? (The answer: Came prepared to sleep outdoors with sleeping bags, etc., but actually sleep indoors. It’s just as cold inside but at least you keep out of the rain.)
  And what do you do about the millions of mosquitoes that Canada is so famous for? (Very simple: Go camping in June when the smart mosquitoes refuse to freeze their teensy feet by landing on us icy people.)
  How does a novice who has never pulled a trailer before manage to back it up without slamming into a tree? (Answer: Aim it as best you can, close your eyes and keep backing until you hear someone screem.)
  SPACE DOESN’T PERMIT me to relate the experience of approaching the Blue Water Bridge with Canadian Customs blowing their siren at me and shouting to me to “BACK UP!”
   Or the day we all went horseback riding for the first time in our lives on a wooded trail.
  So just what does one do if he can’t sit down because he is saddle sore— and can’t stand up because he bumps his head on the light fixture? (Answer: Go outside and stand up the remainder of the day.)
  My friends are right.
  There’s absolutely nothing like camping.