O Lord, You know we love camping in Your wild, beautiful world. But this year, a gnat plague of biblical (Exodus 8:16-19) proportions swarmed us the entire trip. After we returned home, Hubby even sorted piles of dirty laundry in his truck’s bed, rather than let the pests infest our house. OMG, Pharaoh wouldn’t listen to You, but we want to know: was it something we said?
O Lord, thank You for a husband who loves Your creation. But given his enthusiasm for a trail like this, OMG, has he taken out a life insurance policy on me that I don’t know about?
Though Hubby and I now own a pop-up camper, we remained tent campers for two decades. As still-married experts, we offer advice to those planning to bail out tents.
A truly memorable experience depends on preparation.
- Get away from it all, a hundred miles from the nearest laundromat. Confirm beforehand that hand dryers in the campground’s restrooms haven’t worked since 1979.
- Pack anything that holds more than one teaspoon under your spare tire. Then forget where you packed your bailing aids.
- Do not pack clothing and towels in waterproof garbage bags. Plan to stack them in your tent so during a deluge, every fiber will absorb its proper quota of water. Your clothes may sprout toadstools. Your towels will weigh more than chunks of firewood. But you won’t drown. You want to survive to do this again, don’t you?
Tips, once you’ve arrived at your site:
- Place air mattresses under sleeping bags. These will promote comfort and dryness — unless the youth group that borrowed them wore cleats.
- Store all food in your tent so 37 hungry raccoons will assist in your bailing experience.
- Given that all bailing vessels are buried under your spare tire, a husband’s tennis shoes work well, especially if you’re mad because he talked you into tent camping.
- If a nagging wife’s sleeping bag has remained dry while yours is drenched, use hers to sop up the flood.
- A more relaxed approach: If spouses awaken to find air mattresses afloat, she can remind him he always wanted to go white water rafting. He can remind her she always wanted a pool. Add sunglasses and drinks with little paper umbrellas, then enjoy a facsimile of the vacation you really wanted.
The above assumes no children accompanied you. If they have, thunder will send them diving, slimy and screaming, into your sleeping bag. Remember, you and your spouse must set a positive example for future years, should they marry people with tents.
- Instigate a family sing-along while you bail. “The Ants Go Marching” lends a steady rhythm to keep everyone working in the fun tradition of galley slaves. Avoid “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing.” Despite the song’s superior spiritual content, neighbors — also bailing — may not appreciate its profundity.
- Start a water fight. You can’t get much wetter, right? (So what, if it’s 4:30 a.m.)
- If water rises past kids’ knees, give them impromptu swimming lessons.
- If water rises to your youngest child’s neck, enjoy sleeping in the car. Family togetherness — that’s why you planned this, right? Because you’ve always dreamed of sleeping, entwined with two kids, under a steering wheel …
And achieving that special marital chemistry that comes only with bailing out a tent.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What tent camping tips can you offer?
O Lord, Thank You for the complexity of Your creatures. It’s amazing how hordes of little cicadas know exactly when and where to show up every 17 years. OMG, I’m also very thankful they didn’t choose our campsite!
“Would you write a note that says I can’t go teach today?”
My husband, a retired family physician, often heard similar requests about missing work. Today, though, he’s the speaker. Glaring at hail pelting our backyard, he dreads Indiana weather’s hormonal tantrums.
I don’t blame him. While I enjoy gentle raindrop melodies, I dislike hail’s percussion. Poor spring flowers probably don’t appreciate that music, either.
I settle deeper into my cozy robe and sofa seat, tapping on my laptop. One gloating glance from me, and Hubby might park beside me for a month. Maybe two.
Past Aprils have dumped snow on us. Today, thunder, lightning and hail prevail. Will tomorrow bring a biblical plague of frogs?
But spring peepers in nearby wetlands, the amphibian Mormon Tabernacle Choir, remain strangely silent. Perhaps they’re in a mucky mood too.
A born-and-raised Hoosier, I should accept this climatic insanity as normal.
Golfers like our neighbor consider it an unfortunate par for the course. They crave the 70-degree April in which my son was born, with lilacs and crab apple blossoms dizzying us with fragrance.
Or even the spring in which our daughter was born, when April blizzards morphed directly into 90-degree temperatures.
Even without that extreme temperature change, panicked weather personnel have trumpeted tornado doom for our state.
I appreciate their concern. Yet, how do we prepare for such climatic craziness?
Plus, Floridians don’t face the wardrobe problems we brave. Hoosiers cannot retire cold-weather clothing, yet must jam closets with spring-friendly outfits. Do we choose a parka or spring raincoat? Woolies or sleeveless? Wearing layers works, but how many? And not even the most flexible Midwesterner pairs flip-flops with electric socks.
Spring weather also scrambles food choices. If we bravely plan a barbecue, we may squint through a whiteout to see if the chicken’s done. Mother Nature, off her meds, may blow our grill to Cleveland.
Surely, she’ll get over her snit soon. Sunshiny weather will last through a five-minute walk. My miserable diet, kept with swimsuit weather in mind, will prove worth it. Hubby, who persists in making desperate camping reservations, will set up our pop-up without joining our grill in Cleveland.
For now, though, he must face Indiana weather as it is.
“Take an umbrella,” I say.
Hubby rolls his eyes. “It’s in my backpack.”
“Do you have a snow shovel in the car? Boots? Food and water? This might turn into a blizzard.”
“Check. Glad we had the air conditioning fixed last fall. Could be 90 by evening.”
He dons his suit of armor.
I open his helmet visor and kiss him goodbye. Now he’s prepared for anything — even an Indiana spring.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s spring weather like in your state?
O Lord, thank You for a beautiful, though somewhat frozen weekend of camping. Perhaps my Native American roots should steer me toward something more survivalist. But OMG, thank You for a pop-up with a heater!
“You initiated an end-of-the-season campout,” my husband insisted. “To celebrate your completing a novel.”
Crazy. I would never—
Wait. After months in the writers’ cave, I do recall blurting something about an October campout.
Exactly what a weary writer needed — extra laundry. Debates whether to pack heavy coats or light. How could I jam this carrot bag into the cooler? (Though the cheesecake fit fine.)
All for a campout in October, when Mother Nature frequently forgets to take her Prozac.
What word-fogged madness had seized me?
Hubby should have conducted an intervention: “Let’s go to a ritzy hotel where they golf cart you to the hot tub.”
Instead, he gleefully hooked up the camper and condemned me to a weekend in the wilds.
The campground teemed with campers struck with similar insanity, determined to experience one final outdoor inconvenience. Perhaps they’d all written books, too, and succumbed to brain disappearance?
Adults, as well as kids, competed in a never-ending, kamikaze bike race around the campground. For pedestrians on hasty nighttime hikes to restrooms, a headless horseman could strike no terror so profound as that caused by breakneck night riders with glow-in-the-dark decals.
Better to stay by the campfire, especially as temperatures dipped to 39 degrees.
Fall camping does have positives. With no devices or cell phone service, we retired early. Once my foggy mind realized a nighttime noise wasn’t a hair dryer left on, but the camper’s heater, we spent snuggly nights in sleeping bags.
Mornings, we consumed yummy breakfasts with enough cholesterol to supply the state.
No global warming occurred, so we couldn’t swim or kayak. We left bike rides to the kamikaze crazies. But we could hike.
We strolled through gorgeous woods, stopping to admire lakes, trees, and tough little flowers that braved autumn’s temperatures. Unable to translate bird language, we assumed a fervent chorus of welcome. Along with soaring hawks and eagles, even buzzards appeared graceful. We encountered a beaver lodge and a gobbling flock of wild turkeys.
Why, on these jaunts, do we persist in seeking deer? I’ve seen them in neighbors’ yards. Deer devour my tulips and tomatoes, yet we found this park quest entertaining — also part of the insanity.
If hikes cause rubber legs and aching feet, they also inspire the best naps ever taken by humankind.
We found ourselves lingering that last, lovely afternoon, breaking down camp at the last minute.
Arriving at home, we hauled in suitcases. Bags of smoky, dirty clothes. The cooler, with its highly questionable contents.
We recovered our Internet. Tons of emails awaited us. Tons of work.
What madness possessed us to come home?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you like fall campouts?
O Lord, Thank You for my Boy Scout and his love for Your creation. Thank You that we’ve shared several great camping trips this summer. But now he’s bought new backpacking gear for primitive wilderness camping. OMG, thank You that I won’t share in that.
O Lord, thank You for the avid camper I married. I, too, love sharing in Your beautiful creation. But OMG, I’m wondering if each of us defines camping–and a few other things–a bit differently.
At school’s end in the 1960s, tents bloomed in backyards like roses. Kathy, Debbie, and I couldn’t wait.
Safety didn’t concern our mothers. Still, yakkety phone calls ensued before we extracted unanimous permission.
We campers stocked up on penny gum and Pixie Stix® at Charlie’s general store. If rich, we bought enough candy bars to ensure membership in the more-cavity group on Crest® Toothpaste commercials.
Lacking sleeping bags, we dragged old blankets and pillows to my saggy tent.
“Don’t knock down the poles,” Kathy warned.
We ate 17 pieces of bubble gum each and read Bazooka Joe fortunes aloud. Debbie had confiscated her older sister’s teen magazine. Which Beatle was the cutest? This cosmic question kept us arguing and giggling until darkness fell.
According to reliable sources, Gary and Tim were camping that night in Gary’s backyard. Younger than us, Tim was beneath our notice. Kathy and Debbie considered Gary icky, but no other boys on our block were outside. The so-called lack of prime victims didn’t bother me. I’d never told my friends I liked Gary’s cute smile.
We sneaked out, careful not to topple poles. Creeping through several other yards, we halted behind lilacs near Gary’s house. We made it!
But we’d forgotten to bring Crazy Foam. Or squirt guns.
“Pound on their tent,” Kathy urged.
Except … no tent.
Gary’s sister had revealed his campout tonight. How dare he mess up our plans?
I didn’t like his dumb smile anymore.
Then wild, still-soprano yells erupted.
I rocketed through darkness. Where were my girlfriends? The boys — probably well-equipped with Crazy Foam — would attack our tent.
Something sliced my throat!
I stumbled into our tent. In mistaken self-defense, Debbie and Kathy clobbered me. We knocked down poles. Entangled in canvas, we awaited Crazy Foam explosions and buckets of water.
Nothing. No one.
Perhaps the boys feared we would report them to their parents.
Propping up the tent, we tried to regain our bravado. Kathy told about the Man with the Golden Hook. Though I’d heard the tale a million times, scary scratching on our tent kept me edgy all night.
Also, Debbie had eaten beans for supper.
We couldn’t open the window because the Man with the Golden Hook would get us.
My friends nodded off, but my neck hurt. If only I could slip through my house’s unlocked door … But then, I’d have to explain my injury and betray our raid.
Finally, I slept.
Kathy and Debbie left early. Mom, unaware of my wound, insisted I clean up our mess.
I considered swearing off backyard camping forever.
At least, until tomorrow night.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Did you conduct backyard campout raids?