Friday, May 16, 2008

Ernest gives up Camping

It’s the May long weekend and camping season is upon us, but we don’t plan to camp this year. Sure, we still could if we really wanted to put Fiona to the test, but I’m not so cruel. We never really camped for the love of it. I just thought that, rather than paying $100 for a cozy, quiet hotel room, I’d rather pay a mere $25 for a sloped patch of grass and tree roots that happens to have party-animal neighbours just eight feet from our heads.

Once as we lay awake in the night on one of those serene plots of earth, a tornado ripped roofs off buildings a few miles from us, and the storm turned a small dome tent next to us completely upside down. It was no great consolation during the height of the storm to have a friend of ours who is an undertaker come to ask if we were alright. I’m not making this up. For over a year after that, our preschool-aged son would get all skittish whenever he saw a slightly off-white cloud. He would tug on our sleeves and beg to go inside, wide-eyed and anxiously saying, "Tundatome, tundatome!" But hey - we saved money, didn't we? I just wondered how much the counseling fees would be.

Another time, we were camping in Golden, BC and Fiona and I suddenly awoke at about two in the morning, wondering why we were beginning to feel the earth through our brand new deluxe queen-size air mattress. It was losing air. Wanting to be a hero, I started our van amongst the previously sleeping campers all around us and drove off to the 24-hour Husky to buy a small dusty old roll of duct tape for $249.99. It was worth it if it would help my lovely bride to have a better sleep. Once back, we found that duct tape wouldn’t stop the leak. But it did slow the leak. So to decrease the pressure on the mattress, I nobly chose to sleep in our upholstered van, leaving Fiona to sleep on the hard earth she would soon feel beneath the exhaling mattress.

Still committed to camping, we continued to gradually build up our supplies. I remember the summer we bought a Coleman stove thinking we could finally have hot meals out in the open air! So there we were that August, in a KOA outside Calgary, with an icy gale blowing so hard that it kept blowing our stove's flame out. We finally gave up and ate cold food. During the night, it snowed. Breakfast was a tad morose as we huddled around a damp and frosty picnic table eating the scraps of food that didn't require a flame.

Our final purchase was a tent called the "Behemoth." It's 18'x10'. At the time we bought it, it was two feet longer than our entire living room. It's over 7' high inside the tent and weighs about 100,000 lbs when in its carrying case (which has in-line wheels for ease of use). It can be subdivided into four rooms if desired, and can easily sleep the five of us, plus leave room for all our suitcases, our cooler and our minivan. But thinking that we had bought a tent in which we could fit both our couches, our TV, a coffee table, an end table and a seven-foot long corner bookcase and still have plenty of room to spare kinda shocked us. We just figured that if it makes camping less stressful, get it. Little did we realize that the reason small is beautiful when camping is that in the chill of the night, it’s good to have a tent small enough so that your body heat can keep your tent from freezing inside. Sure we had space for luggage, but camping in the mountains left us needing arctic sleeping bags.

So after all that we spent, did we use it enough to make up for what we saved on hotel bills? I don’t know, but Fiona’s certainly not too disappointed that we’re no longer trying!

© 2008 by Ken Peters

No comments: