Wednesday, June 15, 2016

To Camp or Not to Camp? Is that a Serious Question?


Saying the word, typing the word....really just reading the word feels like a sigh of relief in my brain.

Summer has always been the goal, what I am living for, the dangling carrot. I never liked school. I wanted to go because that is where my friends were, but I did not want to learn anything. 

What I really wanted was Summer. Time to read a book a day and see my friends without the side order of learning.

Plus we usually took really fun vacations and always saw cousins with whom we jumped (or pushed) off the pier into icy Lake Michigan, stayed up late playing pitch black games of Capture the Flag or having Skip-Bo marathons, set up roadside stands to sell the plethora of cucumbers my mom just could not turn into one more batch of pickles, and presented "shows" from which our parents are still scarred. 

Summer was the Bliss That Lasted Forever. 

I fortunately married a teacher as well as became one so, if possible, summers became even more magical. We would sleep until 10 am, go to the pool, read an entire book, return home to nap because all that lounging at the pool wore us out, grill some supper and go to Blockbuster to pick the evening's entertainment which we would start around 10 pm. 

Then we had kids.

They ruined everything for a while. 

Did I type that out loud? 

But now they are fun. We like hanging out with them (for the most part). I think we are in the "golden years" of parenting: they can dress/wash/wipe themselves, play fun games instead of Candyland all the dadgum time (which kind of makes me want to sit down and sob when I think of Queen Frostine and Grandma Nutt and that freaky gumdrop guy), and they think we are awesome. 


And with these summers off Preston wants to show the girls the world. Or at least our continent. 

And as a single income family making serious teacher bank, we will be staying at all five star hotels.

Or camping. 

But we don't camp, and I have been very vocal over the years about how I will never camp, despite having some of our best friends who love to camp and want us to come with them. I will hike and sweat and cook over the fire and get muddy and swim in the pond scum but when it is time for bed, I need a bed in a house. 

(Also, our friends went camping a few weekends ago and there were actual shots fired in the middle of the night and a call to arms, of which they had none, and so that story did not make me want to leave my house much less camp. Everything turned out totally fine, but still!)

Quite the conundrum.

But because I am madly in love with My Redneck, who surprisingly never really camped either but really, really wants to show our kids the world

I will learn to camp.

So far we have camped twice, for a total of three nights. Let me entertain you with stories from those 72 hours.

First of all, you have to take SO MUCH STUFF. It took a full half day just to get all this crap together. (notice there is not a line item "coffee mugs")

Everything is finally loaded. We are ready to pull out. 

"The Good Lord is trying to stop us! Please don't fix the tire! I think I see the Baby Jesus' face in the shape of the deflated rubber! Flat tires are a sign, Man!"

But being the Redneck he is and knowing all the car things he knows the flat tire was not the deterrent I hoped thought it would be and really only slowed us down by about 15 minutes. 

We got our tent set up with no fighting (a Christmas miracle if there ever was one) and blew up all the air mattresses, which then barely fit. Apparently a six person tent is really only for six people if those six people are newborns. 

But we got all the mattresses jammed in there and had a decent evening. 

Exhibit of decency:

After plenty of sugar, we settled in for night one, and the best I can say is that we survived it.

Here were the issues:

1. A queen air mattress. 
  "Be still!" 
  "Scoot over!" 
  "I'm already hanging off the edge!" 
  "Why didn't you stop growing at a reasonable height?" 
  "When you move I literally fly three feet up in the air."

2. Freezing temperatures paired with thin sleeping bags and no extra blankets and a person who did not pack a sweatshirt because he said his wife was rushing him and therefore had to buy one from the state park gift store which was too small but they didn't have any in size Enormous and ended up trading with his wife who had packed her favorite sleeping sweatshirt (which technically belongs to him) because it is huge like a blanket and would keep her warm and now she had to suffer with the stupid state park sweatshirt that was not as huge and comfy.

3. A child who needs to use the bathroom all of the time. All. Of. The. Time.

4. A cold walk through tall dewy grass with the Bathroom Child. In the dark. Actually make that four cold walks.

5. The tent was outdoors. As in not in a building. 

But we survived and had a rather nice morning around the fire cooking sausage and drinking coffee straight from the French press.  

Before the next trip we decided we needed a bigger tent, more the size of our house. A friend Preston works with gave us a huge 8 person tent his family no longer used, we bought one of those screen houses to put around a picnic table so the bugs wouldn't make me nuts, and we headed off to another state park sure we would be amazing campers this time since we had already done it once for 20 hours. 

Again, we were able to get set up quickly and with no fighting. Preston and I traditionally argue when things like maps or instruction manuals or life are involved. But I am determined to camp and make it pleasant (or at least not miserable) for everyone so I kept my trap shut. Another Christmas miracle.


Except Preston only packed four chairs. Now I'm no mathematician, but last time I counted we have three kids plus two adults which equals five.


He offered to stand all weekend. I agreed.

Also the coziness was affected by the campers next to us, who just graduated college or more likely were just released from federal prison, who played music at the very top of the limit of sound volume while giving themselves alcohol poisoning. One time "Backstreet's Back" by the Backstreet Boys came on whatever station they/the entire campground was listening to and one of them hollered out, "Hey, everybody! Did you know Backstreet's back?" which for some reason struck me as hilarious. I couldn't stop laughing. Our youngest thought they were awesome and was dancing on the picnic table. The oldest, in typical oldest fashion, kept telling us all the rules they were breaking, and the middle girl wanted everyone to focus so she could continue beating us at All The Games. 

When they were still doing shots from their red solo cups at 10:30pm and the dropping of the F-bomb was becoming more of an every word thing than a drop, I insisted we call for backup. Like SWAT or the Green Berets or at the very least Seal Team 6. Preston felt like the park rangers could probably handle it. And they did. 

But then I couldn't sleep and had to take Bathroom Child out twice and had to go twice myself and the zipper on this tent mimics the wild screeching of a howler monkey so the night was rough. And that is the mildest description I can give without dropping the F-bomb myself. 

The next day was great. We cooked pancakes and hiked and played tennis and swam in a grotto and slid down natural water fall slides and saw beauty that robs you of breath and felt the satisfaction of having exhbitied courage. We discussed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone at length and laughed and saw wildlife and in general had the best day.

Then comes the night. 

Shot Drinkers next to us had vacated the premises, clear skies, a million stars, tired little girls whom I was actually able to get showered in the bath house without puking or passing on my ridiculousness about how disgusting bath houses are. (although I did panic when one girl started to take off her flip flops and another actually leaned on the wall of the shower) 

It's going to be a great night. 

Except for those pesky summertime pop up thunderstorms that happened to pop up directly above our tent. 

The rain puddled on the rainfly exactly above my mattress. Of which we all now had our own and five twin size mattresses do not fit in an 8 person tent at all so even with the bigger tent we were all jammed up against the sides. And anything that is touching the side of the tent allows water to seep in. I will let you draw your own conclusions about that and your conclusions are right.

So Preston ran around in the rain yanking on the rainfly so it would stop dripping onto my forehead, throwing chairs into the truck, being my hero, while I soothed the child who is sure there will be a tornado every time it sprinkles and also the girl who was suddenly crying about missing the dog no one pays attention to. 

Everyone was so tired we did eventually fall asleep and sleep through a few more rain showers. 

As soon as the night was over we started another great day and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. 

So basically the problem is the sleeping and bathroom situation.

Solution: We are going to look at a travel trailer this weekend. 

Here it is:

And here's future Preston:

I don't know if RVing is considered camping or not to some of you people who rough it, but that is the direction in which we are leaning. I just cannot see us traveling for weeks or even a month at a time setting up and tearing down camp every day or two, walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and in general being exhausted without having serious marital strife.

And Preston has been pushing for the RV route all along because I swear that man knows me better than I know myself and he has never thought tent camping was really an option. 

So he has been researching travel trailers for the past four months and now, with my blessing, has negotiated a deal with a good ol' country boy who has a trailer to sell exactly like the kind Preston decided we need in order to do this. This guy just really seems to like our plan and has hit it off with Preston and is selling his RV to us at a major loss to himself. (Have you noticed how good ol' boys have a tendency to do things like that? I want to be more like that.) I've seen pictures and though it's not new it has a bathroom and a kitchen and a set of bunks and a bed for us. As long as the pictures match the real deal...  

This kind of camping I do believe I can do.

We have already figured out the trips we will take for the next seven or eight years. 

I cannot wait to see the girls' faces when we ride bikes along the rim of the Grand Canyon, drive across the Golden Gate bridge, watch Old Faithful erupt, canoe on Lake Louise, weep at the Lorraine Hotel, ride horses on Mackinac Island, eat lobster in Maine, remember our own trip to the Alamo, and take in a baseball game with their daddy in Busch Stadium. (I just threw that one in there. I can already tell you the girls' facial expressions when we have to do that: grim.)     

And maybe I am all pie in the sky and it will be a disaster and we will sell it after we take it two hours down the road for a night.

But we want the girls to experience things we cannot offer them here at Redneck Headquarters: to see how others live, to eat local cuisine, to overcome their fears, to make new friends (even with shot drinkers...maybe especially with shot drinkers), 

to appreciate all things and all people God has created. 

And maybe love and appreciate home a little more, too. 

To that end, I have been compiling a list of books to read to prepare us to see all the things on our first adventure next summer, to help us learn about why they are important, why we are stopping there, how our history was changed by what people sacrificed there. If you have suggestions please send them my way.Also, I cannot recommend highly enough this book I read about on Ann Voskamp's blog last week. I took it to the library yesterday and checked out a whole stack of picture books which the girls promptly poured over for two hours.

I really think this will be good. I hear from so many people about memories of trips their families took in RVs and how much fun they remember having. We want to be those people. I want more of this:

So to camp or not to camp?

For the 

Or maybe glamp.

Grace for Family Vacations,

P.S. A few updates:

1. I blogged a while ago about blogging for Compassion International, and while they remain my very favorite charity organization, I could not keep up with the schedule and had to admit I had bitten off more than I could chew.

2. About six weeks ago I wrote about how I would be blogging more again. All I have to say about that is it continues to be my goal. So in all likelihood, I'll see you again in about three months. 


  1. 1. I love your goal of "appreciate home a little more." I think that's an honest and reasonable goal.

    2. I grew up with hippie parents and a Coachmen RV (Winnebagos were apparently not made as well and only rich folks had Airstreams). Now I have a travel trailer that my family camps in. I'll tell you this: one of the major pastimes of RVers is looking around at everyone else's campers and comparing, making notes, and dreaming of your next purchase. We went lightning speed from tent to pop up to bigger pop up to travel trailer.

    3. I think we bloggers deserve to take the summer off, too, so do it with reckless abandon and zero guilt. Your readers will still be here in the fall. :)


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