About four years ago, Cheryl and her brother decided it would be fun to go on a family camping trip---a real camping trip. I recall her brother saying that sleeping in a camper is not really camping, that's cheating. So each year we go on a real camping trip, with tents, sleeping bags, outdoor bathrooms, no kitchens, no tv, and no computers. We have been to Rocky Gap and to Gettysburg---both about three hours from our home. I must say, except for the camping part, I've had a great time.
About four weeks ago, Cheryl asked what weekend would be good to go on our annual camping trip with Uncle Ray. I could have sworn that I told her that fall baseball is not over until the last weekend in October, so any weekend after that. I was surprised when she told me we were going camping the second to last weekend in October, and further, that the weekend was starting on Thursday. Whoa, wait a second, what about baseball on Saturday, and I have a trial on Friday.
No problem, she had a solution/compromise---we would go to a campground in Ellicott City, Maryland, about forty minutes from our house. Great, but I have a trial on Friday, and I need to get back for the game on Saturday. No problem for Cheryl, the location of the campground would allow me to drive up on Thursday to help unload and set up camp before returning home Thursday night. Then I could go to work on Friday, and then drive back to the campground after work on Friday night; then drive back home for the game on Saturday and then drive back to the campground on Saturday night. Then Sunday morning, I could help break camp, load up, and drive home on Sunday afternoon.
No way. We are not going camping this year. Sorry Cheryl. Sorry kids. Sorry Uncle Ray. I am not a high priced mule.
On Thursday, we arrived at the campsite right behind Uncle Ray---it turns out that I am a high priced mule. I was shocked to see that he had a pop-up trailer attached to his truck. Why, that is not a tent, that is a trailer, and that's not really camping, that's cheating! Apparently, he had never said that, or if he had, it was meant for luxurious campers that sleep eight, not pop-ups that sleep six.
Awesome. That thing sleeps six. Let's see, his one and our five... that equals six. Again I was surprised when he said that he brought us an eight-man tent that we could use.
Two things crossed my mind at this point. First, your pop-up sleeps six. I did the math in the previous paragraph, 5 + 1 = 6. We have six. Second, I have a six person tent so I don't need your stinking big tent. His response to my first observation was that the pop-up does not sleep six people "comfortably," plus his dog would be in there with him... and second, a six person tent has just enough room for six people. No room for anybody's stuff so we should use the bigger tent.
We unloaded the SUV and located the bathrooms that came equipped with nice showers. We then got the electricity turned on so we could use our electric blankets, and we began setting up camp. With
Now I know what you are thinking because I was thinking the same thing. We drove forty minutes from our house and made sure we had electricity so we could stay warm at night, we made sure we had a bathroom with a shower so we could stay clean, and we made sure that we had nice bedding that kept us up of off of the cold ground.
Let's see, where do we have all those things?---electricity, bathrooms with showers, and warm beds. Oh, I remember now. We have all those things, plus a lot more, AT OUR HOME, ONLY FORTY MINUTES AWAY!!!! We should have just invited Uncle Ray to spend the weekend at our house, and he and the kids could have slept in our backyard if they had wanted to. That would have been a win/win situation.
Friday arrived and before I left work, I called Cheryl to see what, if anything that they needed besides a pump. Apparently, everyone slept on the ground because the one air mattress that we could pump up, had a leak in it. Other than a new mattress, they needed snacks. Two reasons they needed snacks: First, Uncle Ray had to go to work for a few hours on Friday night, so dinner was not going to get started until after 8:00 p.m. Too late for the kids. Second, Uncle Ray shopped for the trip. He graciously bought all the food, but he does not have kids, so he does not get the snacking habits of children. He bought what he needed to make the meals and that was about it. They needed snacks.
No problem, I hit the Wal-Mart and got some fruit, some popcorn, some cheese and crackers and pepperoni. On the drive up, I found a Japanese restaurant right outside the campground and bought some sushi. I told the kids that I caught the fish on the way in so it was fresh. The kids devoured the pre-meal meal, but were anxiously awaiting Ray's return so we could eat dinner.
One thing I will say about camping with Ray: he can cook on a fire like nobody's business. Maybe it is because we are hungry, or maybe we think it is cool to eat around a campfire, but mealtime is the best. He grilled chicken and steak and he always has potatoes with every meal. We eat more potatoes in that one weekend than we do the rest of the year. Matthew bought him a potato cookbook, and whatever he does to those potatoes works. He doesn't catch the chicken or kill the cow like I did with my fresh sushi fish, but it was still pretty good.
Besides eating, all we really do is sit around the campfire and try to stay warm. It is pretty incredible that a family that spends as much time sitting in front of a tv, a computer screen or an i-pod can sit for hours and hours watching a fire burn. That is what we did for a large part of the weekend. In fact, I was only there at night, so that is all I ever did, other than unpack and pack back up again. The only time that we could stay warm was when we went to the tent and got under our electric blankets. We had three, and I would have thought that would have been enough for five of us in two beds, but somehow Grace thought that all three were for her. I think at one point she actually stomped her feet and shook both fists. I cannot be sure because my laughter seems to have diminished my memory of the event.
Perhaps it would have been a good idea to give her the blankets because she got sick and had to go home late Saturday night. I volunteered to take her home but Cheryl, realizing that I had been doing "a lot of driving"---we would have put fewer miles on the car had we camped at Yellowstone National Park---volunteered for the job. It turns out that Cheryl was not feeling well either, and she wanted a good night's sleep. Frankly, I liked sleeping in the tent. Very comfortable and very toasty with those blankets. In fact, it was the only time that I was warm the entire weekend. To go even further, I did not thaw out until about Wednesday.
So to recap, we went camping with Cheryl's brother. I drove a lot. Once we got the mattress thing figured out, we slept okay. We ate very well. I drove a lot. Cheryl and Grace got sick. I was cold for five days and I drove a lot. The kids had a great time and I enjoyed sleeping and eating.
Hey Uncle Ray... same time next year?!