Hey, let’s go camping!

(Originally published July 2003)

It was supposed to be a relaxing weekend of camping. I should know better than to include the word “relaxing” when talking about a camping trip with the kids and Laura, who — by the way — requires a minimum of 47 hours of sleep between Friday and Sunday.

This camping trip was a spur-of-the-moment decision Laura made while I was busy wrapping up some Saturday morning errands. Since we are planning a longer camping trip later this month at Rangely State Park, Laura suggested we should take a trial run at camping in order to check out the “equipment.”

So, I spend the next two hours packing up the Jeep, which includes taking down the kids’ tent that I put up in the yard. Laura makes a “quick” run to her parents’ house so that we can borrow a lantern. I am alone with the boys, who are very excited and very eager to help pack, and they offer plenty of suggestions about what we need to bring. I load the sleeping bags, the tents, the bug spray, the lawn chairs, the tarp, the kids’ water toys and a cooler that weighs roughly 300 pounds, not including the ice we still have to buy.

As a finishing touch, I strap the canoe on the roof rack and squeeze the paddles over the pillows, blankets and cookware. And we’re off. Two vehicles, two kids and more “stuff” than the Allied Forces needed in Germany.

While driving to the campground, my eyes catch a glimpse of gathering clouds on the horizon. If there is ever a drought, simply ask Randy Seaver to plan a camping trip. There’s no better way to ensure a steady downpour.

We arrive at our site at approximately 3:30 p.m. “Let’s set up camp,” Laura proclaims. Unpacking moves a little more quickly until we realize that we don’t have enough stakes to set up the “main tent.” Matthew begins to cry. We forgot to bring a “floatie.” Tim meets a friend at the campground. He wants to know if he can visit her family’s site so that he can watch a video.

We picked a campground close to home, so I offer to drive back, get the “floatie” and check on our dogs. Roughly 90 minutes later, I return to the site. Matthew doesn’t want to go into the water now. Laura wonders what we will have for dinner. We planned on steaks but there is no grate for the fire. So we have approximately 250 pounds of snacks and salad stuff, but nothing for dinner. I still have yet to eat lunch. “Kentucky Fried Chicken sounds good,” Laura suggests.

I’m back in the Jeep with Matthew. Remember, Tim is busy watching a video. I tell Laura to keep an eye on the raging inferno that I built as a campfire. The mosquitoes seem to enjoy our brand of bug repellent.

The line at Kentucky Fried Chicken circles around the parking lot. We wait 35 minutes only to be told, upon finally reaching the counter, they are out of extra crispy chicken. “I don’t care, just fry something and put in a bucket,” I bark. A “quick” stop at Hannaford for some “adult beverages” consumes another 22 minutes as I wait in the “express” line behind a woman who wants to cash a check from Neptune with no identification.

Summer traffic on Rte. One is a nightmare. Bumper-to-bumper and Matt tells me he needs a bathroom. “I have to go real bad,” he says, grimacing in the backseat.

I return to the campsite at 7:50 p.m. It’s getting dark. Tim tells me he is hungry. Apparently, watching a video in a R.V. is a physically draining experience. Laura notes that we forgot the marshmallows and graham crackers. The kids fight over who gets to use a particular stick. I trek a half-mile to the convenient camp store, where I use a strained Visa card to buy a dusty bag of marshmallows.

Finally, the kids are asleep. Peace and quiet and the great outdoors. I crack open a bottle, and Laura yawns from the comfort of her camp chair. “Goodnight,” she says, kissing me on the forehead. The fire needs to be extinguished by 10:30 p.m. The flames are three feet high. I look around and spot an empty, 16-ounce Mountain Dew bottle. Our lantern doesn’t work.

It takes me only 38 trips back and forth to the campground’s water spigot (located 350 yards from our site) to put out the fire. I finally enter our tent and lie down, exhausted. It is so quiet and peaceful that I can clearly make out the sound of air slowly seeping from the air mattress. I decide to ignore this latest development. And then, the rain starts and a clasp of thunder wakes the boys.

“Welcome to Maine,” I sigh. “The way life should be.”


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