As I age aka "get older," I find myself a little more tolerant about somethings and very intolerant of others. Trust me, I have changed, but it has not been an easy road, especially when it comes to camping. Growing up, my family was not the camping type. We did not travel to the wilderness, throw down a tent and sleeping bag, and rough it. In fact, I am fairly certain my mother felt that roughing it was equivalent to staying in a motel that did not have a Denny's attached. On vacation, she actually would check out a reserved motel before we would stay in it. If it looked a little sketchy, she and dad would have a serious discussion, Dad would go into the motel office, and we would drive off in search of better digs. (You can only imagine how difficult it was to find a suitable restroom on a road trip!) So, camping was never an option of a fun, family get-away. However, once I saw a pair of flannel pajamas in the cedar chest and my mother said they were hers as she had worn them on a camping trip. The face she made when she confessed this information was like someone had invited a rat to the dinner table. I am sure Dad camped on occasion since he enjoyed fishing and hunting, but camping was something I did not know or understand.
When I was eleven, I was invited to a "camp-out" in my neighbor's backyard for her birthday. It was a great party! Sloppy Joes, cooking smores, games, spooky stories, our bedrolls (no, I didn't have a sleeping bag) laid out on the soft summer grass, until lights out. Little girls talking, giggling, and before I knew it, everyone was asleep under the West Texas stars except me. I listened to the sounds of the neighborhood that I had known for years and suddenly, they were creepy and weird. I tried covering my head to protect me from bugs and mosquitoes I felt on my face as I tossed and turned. I was a little freaked out when I rolled up my blankets and pillow and left through the gate to cross the street to my house and to my bed. The door was unlocked. As I padded down the hallway, I heard my mom call, "Jan?" I went into her room and told her I wanted to sleep in my own bed and she and Dad told me goodnight. The next morning, Mrs. Woodman was at the door asking if I had come home. There were no other camp-outs for birthdays or otherwise for several years.
In high school, our church's youth director planned a summer camping trip to a state park outside of Hot Springs, Arkansas. By then, I had several years of church camp under my belt and I didn't think twice about signing up for the week long adventure. We would sleep in tents, shower in the park restrooms, work and play during the day in the park, and perform our music and skits for the park's visitors at night. Doesn't it sound great? Twenty something teens and their chaperones, loving the outdoors, sharing quality time, and making memories. KUM BA YA! It was torture. First, the boys set-up their tents and I saw them sweep under the tents and dig a trench around them. Hmmm... Trenches? Then, the guys came over to our pile of canvas. As we were setting it up, it began to rain. No sweeping, no trenches, just let's get it up and throw your gear in it. The rain lasted all afternoon and most of the night. Our tent flooded and our bags and sleeping bags were wet before nine o'clock. With very little sleep and damp everything, the next morning we trudged up the hill to the restroom to try and freshen up. No warm water. Every day, there was no warm water. Even the creek and the lake was warmer than the water in the restroom. My mood never lifted and my spirits did not soar. My sleeping bag did dry out, but since it rained almost every other day, I mostly slept in moist conditions. Our group endured a tornado and spent several hours in the restroom near camp. Even with the Daddy Long Legs Spiders climbing over us most of the night, it was one dry night's worth of sleep. One evening, one of the older kids with a car offered to take some kids to A & W Root Beer for a snack. I practically clawed my way into that car! And when we were at A & W, I snuck away from the group and made a collect call to my dad. I remember crying on the phone and begging him to come get me. I described the horrific conditions and I even coughed a lot to try to convince him it wasn't a healthy situation for his baby, ME. The old man shocked me by saying I only had two days left and I should try to make the best of it. Lord, I was angry! It was a good thing that Mom met me at the church at the end of the trip because I didn't speak to him for a few days. And our youth director DID NOT ask me to share my life changing experiences with the church the following Sunday.
The summer before my senior year in high school, my closest friend, Machelle Yancey, asked me to go camping with her family. I was cautious and a little jaded as I asked her about camping. She assured me that we would be very close to facilities, we would sleep on air mattresses, her family would look after us, and if I wasn't happy, I could go home. Oh, and she told me we would water ski. This peaked my interest. Shell had told me all about skiing and she was sure I would love it. She loved going to Greer's Ferry and she convinced me that it would be the time of my life. She was right. Greer's Ferry Lake was amazing. It was beautiful, we were treated like lake-princesses, and I learned to water ski. I went every weekend with her family that summer and I went with them the summer before I left for college. It was some of the best times I had as a teen and a young adult. I will be forever grateful to the Yanceys.
In college, I didn't camp. Shell had married and my parents had moved to Texas. I still went skiing, but with different people. And I didn't camp. The summer after I was a newly married and living in Arizona, Bosco and I took a road trip with friends from college. Curtis, Monica, Karen Jean, Bosco, and I explored northern Arizona and we planned to camp at a little lake outside Flagstaff. Now, remember, I had been spoiled by the Yanceys and my husband did not read their guide on how to take care of Jana in the wilderness. As we were setting up camp, I made a little trip to the state park restroom. I opened the door and flies swarmed me trying to escape the stinkhole conditions of a non-flushing toilet. No sink. No electricity. Nothing remotely sanitary. Camp was set-up, dinner was eaten, and Monica, Karen Jean and I slept in my in-laws' van. The next morning, I jumped in the driver's seat, fired up the van, and drove us to a restroom with a shower about 20 miles from the campground. We left Bosco and Curtis standing there with a blank look on their faces and no explanations. I had not used the restroom since we had stopped for gas the day before and I shouldn't be held responsible for the state of my decision making or my renal system. Needless to say, we broke camp after breakfast, said goodbye to our friends from Arkansas, and I cried for four hours on the way home. I decided then, no more camping!
As the years passed, I did relent to a few overnight camp-outs, but I had to be baited with water skiing, someone's camper, a flushable toilet, or a 24 hour limit. I never acclimated to the experience. It just didn't appeal to me. Bosco took the kids camping during Spring Breaks and they always camped in the backyard several times a summer, so our kids never did without that joy. I always bowed out and plead that it was "Dad Time" and I didn't want to interfere with my idiosyncrasies. My kids have wonderful memories and I am glad for it. I was really happy with the situation, until one day, after Meg left for college, Jordan made his memorable plea. "Mom, would you please, please think about going camping with Dad and me? It might be fun and it's something the three of us can do together." Sigh... He sounded so sincere. So, I told him I would think about it. I did think about it until I would mentally black-out and go to my happy place of Inn Suites, continental breakfasts, and a swimming pool. Jordan didn't give up and he recruited Bosco in his mission. Finally, I conceded and gave into the battle. I would go camping.
My sister-in-law loaned us a pop-up camper that would reside at our house for a few years. We would take it places and I would camp. I may have given in, but it was not without terrorist's demands. I would have a make-shift shower, a porta-potty, and they would do my bidding as needed. This includes killing bugs, toting fresh water, and ignoring my whining and complaints as I was out of my comfort zone. I love my comfort zone, it's cozy and clean. :) Things went well, but after two days, they were tired of being my camping minnions. And by the third day, we were all ready to go home. This went on for a few years. The camper was nice, but it was cold and windy when we went to Quartsite. When it rained, it got a little leaky around the seams of the pop-out beds. And the porta-potty was a little exposed for three people to use for more than two days. When Bosco retired, he scouted Craigslist and found an affordable used camping trailer that we purchased. It had a bathroom with a shower, a flushable toilet, a kitchen with a microwave, a pop-out living area, and a queen-sized bed. Oh, it also has an air conditioner and a heater. Slick, huh? The pop-up went back to my sister-in-law, and the camper lives in our backyard.
It is nice. When there is no electricity within range, it hooks up to a generator. Gotta love it! I can shower, do my hair, listen to my tunes, and no one gets hurt. Well, unless the cold water line is plugged up and the shower scalds us. Yes, this has happened. Recently, we took it to Patagonia Lake and spent a couple of days with friends, roughing it. They have one, too, but they will not always use the conveniences as a need to commune with nature. I think. On the way out of the camp ground, I watched the villages of tents go by until I saw something moving out from under one of the tents. I looked closely as Bosco slowed the truck, preparing to stop at the dumping station. From under the tent popped a SKUNK!! IN. THE. MIDDLE. OF. THE. DAY! Ever heard of rabies? I screamed skunk and Bosco just laughed! I was beside my self! He said, "I thought it smelled a little skunky last night!" I nearly freaked! I won't even venture into what if land. It is a deep dark hole of unrest. At least my unrest!
CAMPING IS NOT FOR SISSIES!