The Tent with the Satellite Dish, Please
We want to take the kids camping again this summer, because there are some kinds of suffering we didn’t get to experience last time.
We certainly covered the basics: unceasing heat; oppressive humidity; clouds of mosquitoes; unreliable access to adequate hygiene. But anyone can do that. We also knew that a complete camping experience includes not sleeping properly, a goal we accomplished by generating synergy among the weather, the uncomfortable sleeping surfaces and crowded tents with lousy air circulation. Of course we had experience upon which to draw: the previous camping excursion, four years before that, served as an important lesson in which mistakes were worth repeating and which were just a waste.
For example, our first night of the first trip saw us set up camp at a place billing itself as both a campground and a petting zoo. While we appreciated the unique gestalt of sleeping among piles of animal feces, we were the only ones camping there, so we missed the authentic experience born of tents crammed cheek-by-jowl with one another and the territorial and privacy violations that give rise to genuine shouting and, one can only hope, violence. Alas, the only disturbances came from the roosters, who get a real laugh out of humans who think the birds only crow at dawn. They do crow then, but only after practicing every twenty minutes through the night.
So the next night we righted that wrong and went to a different, more populated campground, where families tried to one-up one another with their tents-away-from home, monstrosities that actually feature separate rooms, yet fold up small enough to not fit in your trunk. However, we committed the error of paying for a little hut of our own instead of joining hoi polloi in the teeming mass of tents. Nevertheless, I made up for the unintentional comfort by forgetting some crucial cooking equipment where we had stopped for lunch, so I got to drive through unfamiliar territory in the dark, agonizing the whole time over possibly missing or stolen implements, while Mrs. Thag got to supervise the two boys and keep them from tearing apart the wicker hut.
In the end I retrieved the stuff and the kids more or less behaved, which meant we had to find somewhere with a greater capacity to induce misery. So, after an exhilarating hike during which our ten-month-old had a nasty run-in with a protruding tree branch, we contacted the place that had our reservation, only to be told that they recommended not coming, as they had a wasp infestation. While you might pity us for giving up such an opportunity, we ended up even more miserable than we thought possible: there were no other places to stay anywhere in the vicinity on such short notice; it was getting late; and we had to find a place to eat and set up camp, with no legal campgrounds available.
We eventually decided to pull into the woods and pitch our tent a good bit away from the road, betting that no one with authority would happen by at just the right angle during the wee hours and shoo or fine us. Of course that meant getting tense at every sound of a passing vehicle on the nearby road, which was not conducive to sleep. Then there were these whooping sounds, which we thought were groups of marauding teenagers somewhere, and which we subsequently found out were packs of jackals. And of course, we knew we were close, but didn’t know exactly how close, to the border, beyond which were positions of terrorist guerillas who have yet to come to terms with our continued existence. Who needs wasps?
We knew we couldn’t match that fever pitch of anxiety on our next trip, but I did manage to go swimming with the car lock remote control in my pocket. It still worked afterwards, so we fear we may be cursed with only mild disaster.
Anyone, want to buy a portable fridge that doesn’t work?