Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Great Campout

I am an average woman who has never really camped. Oh I did the Girl Scout thing and later cabin camping. Where all you need is a jacket, pillow, and sleeping bag. Of course, as a teen I also brought makeup, perfume, lotion and “shower shoes” so I could avoid where other peoples feet have touched.

A week ago, my daughter came home with a flyer “Join us for a school campout!” which I threw away. A couple days later I was "talking” with a friend and decided I would seek an adventure. And a campout with borrowed sleeping bags and a new tent with clean flushable toilets and new friends seemed like a nice tame adventure. I would be able to cross “Camping” off of my life to do list. And in a bizarre way bringing macaroni salad as a side dish did seem like camping.

My friend said something to the effect of "Stay warm and dry!". I was puzzled by that comment. Warm? Dry? This is Southern California!!! Who isn't warm and dry? So last night I loaded up my car (it was SERIOUSLY full – those with a sub compact car will shake their heads with complete understanding), and drove home, made the salad and went to the store for “emergency supplies. Water (lol) and batteries. Having backup batteries is like a comfortable hug. Everything will be okay.

We parked and found the “perfect” place to set up base camp. I opened the brand spanking tent and the first step read – 2 people to set up. Being macho and stubborn I figured I was one person and my daughter (who was skipping in the wind, could be the other person). I slide poles in and can’t figure how poles laying on the ground can become an arch. See – as soon as I had one end in, the other end moved. I look for daughter skipping in the wind and see she is across the field. A couple more unsuccessful attempts, and Mr. Kind Dad, came to the rescue. He was not tent savvy I believe he may have had one of the RV’s, but he was another two hands and daughter was now with a throng of children and in a jiffy (I feel like Superwoman now) we had base camp. There was a canvas sheet thing and we threw that on and called it good.

I set up the mats and bags, it looks like home now. Slightly disheveled; but warm and cozy. So I trek around the campus and we have dinner. It was billed as a cookout, but I enjoyed a slice of civilized pizza and a salad with beets and artichoke hearts. I never did get an artichoke heart, daughter’s fork was faster. She did leave a couple bunches of bitter greens. So after dinner, we put batteries in her flashlight and she is off to the “big kid” playground.

I bump into her teacher and we have a delightful chat and she tells me everything a mom would want to know about her precocious daughter. I know now who she plays with in class and on the playground (everyone) and that she finishes her work early and likes to read and also reads to her classmates. She comforts me with lots of facts and observations. We leave to watch the movie in the auditorium. Daughter sits between us eating popcorn and licorice whips (now this is what I’m talking about – movie, candy and a Diet Coke). It feels warm and cozy – so cozy we leave before the movie is over to our tent to go to sleep early. On the way there we notice beautiful drops of rain. “Mom, it looks like snow, doesn’t it?” says daughter. After getting ready for bed in the girls restroom, we laugh as little droplets fall on our coats and head.

Surprisingly, little ball of energy falls promptly asleep and I regret leaving my book (rereading The Golden Compass) as the lights from the basketball court are still on. Soon I’m thinking how beautiful the rain (slightly larger drops now) sounds as it hits the tarp and I marvel at my skill as shelter making mom. I start to doze and see lightening in my sleep. I fumble for my glasses which fill with fog. Hummm….why are they wet? I realize Mr. Kind Dad and I have put the trap covering on backward and decide to dawn my coat and fix it. Easy right? I get one end unhinged only to have it fly overhead and a crack of thunder sounds and a torrent of water falls through my now naked tent. Quickly, I with God on my side I manage to once again secure the tent. Only now my pants are now soaked from the knee down and my coat has soaked through my shirt.

I lay down in a misting tent. I figured the mist was simply water remains from the aforementioned tarp incident and try to sleep. Everything is damp and my hair can be wringed out it is so wet. I slightly regret not packing a full sized towel. I peel off my tee and pants and hunker down into the sleeping bag. After all a bra and undies is sort of like a bikini right? I laid my wet tee and pants on top of a bag to dry and think – well I have another tee for the morning and the pants will be dry by then.

3am. Isn’t it clever how everything exciting happens at 3 am? 3 am. I wake with light on my face and remember the basketball court lights. And I think – maybe its the dawn I see through the tent. I sit up and grab my cell. 3am. Shit. 3am? I am cold. I realize my hand is in a puddle of water. I inch closer to sleeping child. I hear a squish. I realize my head is hot but my pillow and bed are as cold as the ground. And still wet. Very wet. I realize my tent is quickly filling with water. I grab my pants. No, I have to lift my pants. It’s a struggle. I realize they are beyond soaked. I try to squeeze them dry. My bed has turned into a sponge and there is NO way I can stay a minute longer. I have quick visions of knocking on an RV door and seeking shelter. Then I decide even with shelter I am A. wet to my very core and B. I realize I cannot possibly sit in a pool of water for 4 hours. The tent lurches in the wind. Lightening and thunder erupt. Decision made. Flee.

I wake sleeping child and wrap her in the last dry thing and carry her to the car. Well, I realize quickly my car is now in a lake. An almost knee deep lake. I sludge through it and child is complaining. Look honey, it’s an adventure! We’ll be back for breakfast!

I buckle her in and stealthily pull out without my lights on wondering “Where are the basketball poles?” At this point I really do not care and we leave. Luckily, not hitting anything.

Barefoot, I carry her to the house, change our clothes and collapse into bed, only to wake at 6:30 with a low fever. I wander down the stairs, grab a throw, make a cup of tea and check email.

7:30am. I hear someone pounding down the stairs and see daughter is ready to head back for breakfast. Somehow, I have visions of bacon, egg and coffee…

We find pastries, cereal and Thank Goodness! – Coffee. I watch daughter playing with the big girls and chat with other moms. The chill leaves my bones and I head back to pack up camp.

I manage to remove the tent and cover on my own. Easily the water rolls out. And lastly is the tarp. I start to move it, but it is filled inside and out with water. Another Kind Dad, helps seeing me struggle under its weight. We quickly realize it’s filled with water and *shiver* worms. Hundreds of worms. He suggests tossing it and buying another. I let him know it’s borrowed and we do our best to shake them off. *another shudder*

Daughter is wading through the lake with friends and finally we are done. The great campout is over.

Oddly, I will jump at the chance to do it again.

Off to take more Tylenol to reduce my fever….


lucy said...

Wow! You are BRAVE!! WTG!
I hate camping to my core and will never do it again.
If/when I get a flyer like that I will a) burn it b) put it in my husband's in box. HA HA!
This was a good post and provided me with ample chuckles!

Rebecca said...

Oh yuck! That way beats my camping experience....two boys in a homemade teepee in the backyard! We ran an extension cord out so we could have a lamp. I'm SO not a camper...