Okay, it’s Thursday and that means it’s time for Mama Kat’s blog meme! Last week, you voted on Facebook…and you voted for the topic “That one time I went camping…” – and you’re in luck because I’ve been camping exactly one time.
Here’s the thing: I’m the product of a City Girl Momma and a Country Boy Daddy…and the City Girl won. I grew up in Orange County, California – which actually had orange groves and strawberry patches in it when I was a kid. It was not the concrete & stucco encrusted, smog filled monstrosity that it is today. There was a dairy behind our house…with cows and everything. My big brothers used to stand me up on our picnic table in the backyard so I could feed the baby cows carrots. It hasn’t been like that for a very long time, but when I was a kid there were still wide open spaces and plenty of opportunities for kid-sized adventure.
When I was ten years old, my Girl Scout troop was working on our “Outdoor Fun” badge…and one of the activities we had to complete was camping. I remember being so excited that I was actually going camping. My Mom took me out to Kmart and bought me my official “mess kit”. I thought I was totally badass…until she found a sleeping bag on the clearance aisle.
I wanted the super cool red plaid sleeping bag that looked like something out of a western flick – but my parents were raising 6 kids on a single income, so if there weren’t any hand-me-downs I was pretty much stuck with whatever was on the clearance aisle. Imagine my ten year old eyes rolling in disbelief when my Mom bought me a red-orange fabric sleeping bag off the clearance aisle. The worst part? It smelled like rotten cheddar cheese. Seriously. Perhaps the red-orange color wasn’t intentional. Perhaps the sleeping bag absorbed it in the back of an ancient Cheetos factory and that’s where the rotten cheddar smell came from. Actually, it was more like a combination of rotten cheddar and stinky feet. Mom must have washed that damn thing 20 times, but it was no use: I was about to go camping with a stanky cheddar cheese feet bag.
Camping day came and I hugged my Mom goodbye at the drop off with the enthusiasm of a true adventurer. I had no idea how long it would be before I would see her again, but I was certain we would trek many miles through mountain and prairie before coming to the most perfect camping spot I’d ever seen. Yes, I was sure of it. I climbed into our Scout Leader’s van with my squealing friends and we were off. Oh, what a grand adventure it would be! Imagine my chagrin when we drove ten minutes through the city before pulling into the parking lot of a Kiwanis campground that was probably all of 3 acres in size…next to a mobile home park and a strip mall. What?
The sun was setting as we set up the tents and I did my best to immerse myself in the illusion that we were camping in the deep woods. Unfortunately, the damn neon Schlitz Beer sign at the liquor store across the street kept reminding me we’d all been ripped off. Our camp site was next to a tiny lake about the size of three swimming pools – complete with a genuine artificial waterfall that fell over a pile of fake boulders. It was pretty cruddy, actually, but it was ours.
We took turns striking a flint and lighting a fire as our Scout Leader diligently checked each of us off on her clipboard. We grilled burgers and a big pan of potatoes. Then we made hot cocoa by the fire and I learned about one of the greatest things in life. Ever. S’mores.
Then it was time for ghost stories…and then bed. Unfortunately, this was always where my away-from-home adventures went sour for me. I wasn’t good at spending the night in strange places – something that would benefit me greatly in my twenties. The only ho DNA this Princess possesses is Handbag Ho DNA, peeps.
Whenever I tried to spend the night away from comfort of my own home, I developed the worst tummy troubles. I worried non-stop. I was afraid of everything. And I wanted my Mommy. I had never successfully spent the night away from home at this point in my life.
I crawled into my rotten cheddar, stinky feet sleeping bag and tried to be brave. True to her word, my Mom had packed a sleeve of Saltines crackers in my bag so that I could munch on them if I got a “sick tummy”. I peeled open the wrapper and blinked back my tears. I was going to do this.
It wasn’t easy. My tent mate fell asleep in three seconds. I laid there, stinking of rotten cheddar and wishing I had more s’mores to wash away the fear. And then there was the waterfall…
The majestic, mystical waterfall on the fake boulders was somehow powered by whatever you call the thing that flushes toilets. Not even making this shit up. It was on a timer, too, so the water would slowly trickle to a stop and then WHOOSH the toilet would flush and water would pour out over the top of the boulders again. Oooh, magical waterfall! And then WHOOSH…What if the wooshing sound was drowning out the sounds of something really dangerous approaching our camp. Like vicious bears and angry witches. And also the farts coming from my nervous tummy. Between the farting and the rotten cheese toe smell, I wasn’t sure if my tent mate was sleeping or simply passed out from the vapors.
Some time during the night, the soft glow of the Schlitz Beer sign and the rhythmic flushing of the waterfall actually managed to lull me to sleep. Before long, it was morning and our Scout Leader was getting out mini boxes of cereal for all of us to eat. We sat in our jammies and coats in the cool morning sun, talking about our big adventures. The squirrels we saw, the birds we saw. We were sure we could start a fire faster than any of the stupid boys at school. We were survivalists.
After breakfast, we explored the park until our parents came to get us. Mom picked me up and I hugged her hard. I hugged her for that sleeve of Saltine crackers that got me through the night…and I hugged her because I was proud I finally made it through a whole night away from home. I packed up my mess kit and my cheesy feet sleeping bag and we trudged off to the car as I regaled her with the ghost stories I’d learned that night…and told her of the terrible toilet fountain. We laughed that no one seemed to notice the cheese funk was coming from my sleeping bag.
And that, my friends, was the one and only time I went camping.
I’m much more of a hotel girl. A hotel room with a big jacuzzi tub and lots of fun things to do. Sign me up. You can keep your camping…this Princess needs a bed.
So how about you? Camp or Hotel? Lemme hear it!