Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Close To Nature

We live on a tight budget. Our vacations consist of visiting my parents, and camping. I've taken the boys camping since they were babes. We usually try to meet my parents in a location that is somewhat half-way between the two hometowns. It's nice to meet up with them, since they have a camper. But when we go on our own, it's a whole different animal.

I've mentioned that I consider myself an organized person, which used to result in the week prior to our leaving, being a lot of work on my part. But now I have it down to a science. I have even designated one of our closets as the "camping closet." It is full of plastic tubs, each with their own purpose; one for blankets, one for paper plates, plastic cups and anything to be used to eat with, (it also contains a wine opener in case things really get desperate) another is used for dry goods and yet another for lotions, bugs sprays, etc. I am ready to tackle any natural adventure that's out there...or so I thought.

I was bound and determined to fit one more weekend of camping in, somewhere a bit closer, so we wouldn't have to worry about taking any extra time off from work. I scoured the Internet and finally found a 'family friendly' camping site only 45 minutes away. It boasted fun for everyone and had the pictures to prove it. So I booked our reservation, which cost nearly 3 times what we would normally pay.

The weekend arrived, we packed our vehicle to its fullest capacity, squeezed the kids in the back seat and we were off. We stopped at the nearest gas station and filled up, and then realized we had forgotten the boat motor. So back home we go, grab the motor, and we're off...again.

Our vehicle made the climb up the hill which served as the entrance to the camp site. It was looking promising with a lake and lots of trees and very little civilization...until we came over the top of the hill. We were met by the hosts, who were driving a golf cart from their lavish home to come greet us, and collect our fees. She told us to follow her to our spot. There were a few large sheds, but what caught my attention was that all the campers were obviously permanent residents. They had each claimed their little piece of property, parked their campers, and then proceeded to build patios & decks, string up lights, hook up their satellite dishes and landscape their 'yards.' She indicated a spot to us, which very literally looked like we would be pitching our tent on someones lawn. We had one tree, an outlet, a picnic table, and a very generous view of everyone's camper windows, which meant they had an even more generous view of EVERYTHING we would be doing. The bathroom was a good 5 minute walk away, and our position obviously wasn't going to allow us to do our business any where else but there. Determined not to let this spoil the weekend, we got set up as quickly as we could amid the constant yammering from the kids wanting to go swimming.

Almost immediately after we were settled in, a little girl came over to see if the boys wanted to play, we'll call her Jenny. I thought that was cute, but only at first, because I soon found out that she was pushy, bossy, and would never leave. Apparently, her father wasn't too concerned about her whereabouts, since he never came to fetch her. Great, I was a built-in babysitter for the weekend. Not only did she follow our every move, she constantly asked to eat our carefully portioned food. I finally had to send her home with a promise that she could come back the following day. We built a campfire, while everyone else in the "community" went inside to glue their faces to their televisions. I silently congratulated myself on not being a slave to modern technology as we pulled up our folding chairs, talked and gazed at the stars until it was late enough that we felt like we might be a nuisance to our 'neighbors.'

We were up bright and early the next morning, not only to go fishing in the boat with dad, but to try to escape the imminent appearance of Jenny. We almost didn't make it, she hollered at us from the shore as we feigned the inability to hear her over the motor. This may sound cruel, but trust me, it wasn't. The boys enjoyed the ride, baiting their hooks and Kamrin even managed to catch his first fish. When we could no longer avoid the inevitable return to shore, we headed back. Shawn dropped me and the boys off and was able to return to his fishing. I was immediately accosted by Jenny, as I led the boys to the tent to change to go swimming. That was my entire afternoon. Watching the boys and the tag-along while they swam, rode bikes, or were forced to play whatever game Jenny had in mind for them. By later that afternoon, I was overjoyed to see Shawn returning to the shore and my opportunity to escape was arriving. I told the boys we were going to take a quick boat ride before supper, but alas, we only had enough life jackets for me and the boys. We drifted around the lake for a bit, but the boys were hungry and I didn't like the look of the clouds. A few yards to our destination, it started to sprinkle. As tiny as Kamrin is, my back was hurting and I couldn't get to the tent fast enough to lay him down. As I wove my way through the campers to our little tent space, I noticed several people standing in their yards, looking at the sky. After tucking Kamrin into his sleeping bag I asked a nearby gentleman what was going on. "Tornado warning," he replied, "Comin' this way." I only hesitated a split second as I started packing everything that would be damaged by rain in to their prospective water proof tubs. The sky grew darker and the wind blew stronger. I was wondering what was taking Shawn so long. I was starting to worry. But then I saw that someone was trying to get their boat up the sandy drive ahead of him and had become stuck. But no need to worry, our host just happened to have a huge tractor to pull him out (hence the sheds).

By this time, everyone had disappeared into their homes and I didn't even have a radio to monitor the weather. Just as the tractor finished pulling out the other boat, it started to pour. I grabbed Kaiden and shoved him inside the tent (where Kamrin was still asleep). I signaled to Shawn. He ran through the sheets of rain and we both ducked into the tent. We were all crammed into the only open space (since all the tubs were in there as well), when a crack of lightening illuminated everything. Kaiden let out a little yelp and dove under the cot that we used as bed. I looked at Shawn wide-eyed. "How much can this tent take?" I asked. He merely shrugged his shoulders. The wind was practically bending our poles to a 45 degree angle and small pools of water were forming in the corners. "I just wish I knew weather we should ride this out or pack it in." Once again, a loud clap of thunder and again, a whimper from under the cot I was perched on. Shawn reaches in his pocket and managed to locate a weather radar from his cell phone. There was a big red blob, indicating severe weather, and it was headed straight for us. "That's it, we're leav...." BOOM! This one sounded like it was right above us and I half expected our lonely tree to come through the top of the tent. I looked under the cot to see Kaiden with his blanket over his head, curled up in a fetal position. Kamrin still slept. The puddles were evolving into pools and then the hail came.

"Get the truck and pull it as close to the tent as you can. I'll run the kids out and then we're outta here!" I shouted. I started folding blankets and cots, shoving everything I could into whatever tub had space. Except the sleeping bag where Kamrin remained completely oblivious to everything going on. As soon as the truck was near, I grabbed Kaiden, "Here we go!" I yelled and ran over to the truck and threw him in. In the 50 ft. I ran from tent to truck and back again, I was soaked. My hair was plastered to my face and rain dripped off the tip of my nose. I hoisted Kamrin up and made my second sprint to the truck. As I put him in, he briefly opened his eyes...and promptly shut them again. Now it had become a mad, muddy, soaking wet race for Shawn and I to load everything into the truck. At this point, my organization skills fell by the wayside, as we grabbed what we could throwing it into the back of the truck pushing with our shoulders, squeezing everything in to any nook and cranny that was available.  We didn't bother with the precise folding of the tent, we balled it up tossed the poles on top, and while I shoved, Shawn shut the back door. As I hurled myself into the passenger seat, I caught a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror. I looked like a drowned raccoon. I had dark circles under my eyes from whatever residual mascara I had had, and mud streaks across my forehead. My shirt was so wet I had to wring it out onto the floor and it remained plastered to me like a second skin. My teeth were chattering and I had Shawn turn on the heat, "Let's get out of this place!"

That was easier said than done. The wind whipped the boat from side to side and we could barely see beyond our headlights. I held the door handle in a death grip. We listened as the radio advised no travel and yet we pushed on. As we neared Fargo, a miraculous thing happened, the clouds parted and the rain abruptly stopped. The sun came out and I developed a horrific case of the giggles. Could that have been any worse?  "My hungry," my now-awake son said from the back seat. I realized it had been a long time since we had anything to eat. "Let's just grab something." I said to Shawn, "How about Taco John's?" So he pulls into the nearest one. "I can't take the boat through the drive-through."

I cringed as I realized in my soggy state, I would have to indeed go inside the establishment to order. At this point, I just didn't care what other people thought.

We managed to get home, lay out most of our camping belongings out on OUR lawn to dry out. I think the best feeling in the world was putting on dry clothes after a hot shower. I pride myself on being able to "rough it" and to be close to nature...just not THAT close.
Packed to the hilt.

Like hobos on in a cardboard box on someone's lawn.

Wonderful escape.

Not my idea of isolation

Tag along

Is this roughing it?

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