Most of us have inherited our love of camping from our parents and grandparents who have inadvertently instilled this adventurous pastime in us. They went through great pains and organization to make our camping experiences as wonderful as possible with special treats and activities not to mention the pleasant destinations. They did their best to make everything perfect.
Some of my most vivid memories of my time with my parents was of our family camping trips, some of them were even fun. My Dad was a spontaneous man with no organizational skills, so the camping trips were mostly mayhem.
He would decide at the last minute that it was camping time and then race around like a bull in a china shop leaving destruction in his wake searching for the tent that had not been used for a year.
His children including myself would scurry around aimlessly trying to look helpful as to not become the brunt of his temper and receive the blame for not putting the tent in it’s designated spot. No family member would dare to comment on this elusive spot. To this day I am certain no one ever knew of the spot.
Once the tent was located and stuffed into the vehicle it was the cooking utensils turn to be hunted and throwing into a box. The cooler and the groceries where next to feel the wrath.
Packing the bedding at the time I thought was ingenious. Dad would grab the bottom sheet from the foot of the bed and roll the rest of the bedding into a loosely rolled rug shape.
The pillows inside.
My mother, during this chaos would begin by complaining “I’m not going, I’m not sleeping on the ground in that old tent, nothing is ready, we have no food to take…………”.
This of course fell on deaf ears as my Dad flew through the house like a haphazard whirlwind grabbing whatever seemed necessary, whether it was found in a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen or even the living room. Nothing was sacred no matter if it was a decorator pillow on the living room sofa, or fine china from the glass dining room cabinet.
In the end he had a solution for every complaint, a mattress from one of the beds, a package of meat from the freezer and a stop at Safeway that was conveniently located next to the liquor store. A mickey as he called it would need to be procured.
At last my mother would surrender and quietly try to make some sense of the pile of camping stuff, she was a patient soul………I guess.
There are probably several reasons most of our trips only lasted a night or two, so needless to say after our arrival at the campsite and the set up ritual would begin, items required to set up the tent, make a campfire, cook the food and pretty much any other unplanned activity, could not be found.
Although it was never said, this was frustrating for five little children who were anticipating a camping adventure.
A wiener roast with no buns, a marshmallow roast with no marshmallows, smores……….. forget it.
Breakfast was cereal with no milk, or toast with no butter, I don’t remember jam either, peanut butter had not been invented yet, or it would have been left behind as well.
I am not sure where my Dad’s inept organizing came from because my grandparents were anally organized, even my grandpa’s used nails were sorted and categorized. I sometimes think that my Dad’s disregard for order was a silent protest.
The tent was the biggest challenge, one or several of the metal rods that needed to be threaded through some obscure channel to support the top rim were missing. I think part of the center pole was also MIA.
This would have been a minor irritant for my resourceful Dad if the ax had not been left stuck in the chopping block behind our house. So out comes my mothers favorite kitchen knife, under protest from her I may add.
My Dad quickly set about making some new wood rods and center pole from the pristine ornamental looking nearby shrubs, until Mr. Ranger Sir arrives on the scene. Well………after some what smooth negotiations and maybe an apology of sorts the re-fabrication continued. The manufactured rods and pole did the trick.
Once inside the tent an unpleasant musty odor was evident, probably from being stuffed away in haste while tearing down camp during an unexpected rain storm that was probably in the forecast.
That’s how our family camping trips went and although the trips did evolve over the years with some updated gear the theme was the same.
On one occasion when the camping trip went unexpectedly well and everyone had had a good day my Dad settled back in his camping chair take a long pull from his mickey and proclaim, “I wonder what the poor people are doing.”
Even in his later retirement years Dad would arrive in our driveway on his way out of town. His rig was always a site, an old class ‘C’ motor home with many body parts hanging ready to drop.
A generator strapped to the rear bumper, roaring louder than a loaded semi climbing a steep hill, while trying to keep the inside air conditioner running for a little relief from the heat. His dash air had quit several trips ago and he never got around to getting it fixed.
He would still only camp for a day or two and them return even though he would drive for most of a day to reach his destination.
That was my Dad and as they say in the story books “he was a colorful character.”
In spite of all the chaos we survived and most of the time it was fun, not sure about my mom though. However often during her visits we would laugh about our Dad and the predicaments he got us into.
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For our Dad
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