October 19, 2008

Camper's Anonymous- Sign Me Up

How long has it been since I started camping? Three years according to THIS post.

And what was our worst camping trip? The Great Flood in THIS post.

And somehow, I think the Universe is conspiring against me, sometimes, in trying to beat the disaster of the Great Camping Flood. It hasn’t happened… yet, but it has been close.

Essentially, this weekend sucked.

I’m laughing.


And occasionally then… but it essentially had few redeeming qualities other than the fact we were completely unplugged and my boys fished a lot.

Where to begin…

I guess it would be the phone call from my girlfriend, who had arrived the night before at the Sebastian Inlet Park, our camping venue, to tell me, “Its hot, there is NO shade, and there are no see ‘ems everywhere.” I had the boys pack jeans and a long sleeved tshirt, just in case.

I figured the bugs came out at dusk. WRONG.

We arrived at 2PM, it had to be 85 degrees, no shade, humid humid humid, and the no see ‘ems were out in full force.

Within one hour my legs were COVERED in bites. I had no less than 100 bites on both legs. My boys took off to go fishing and I found myself in my car, changing into jeans in an attempt to combat them.

Nighttime, although I was told would be better… was not.

We were bitten… throughout the night… in our tent. They had gotten in and it was a frickin’ buffet with my boys and me being the main course.

So its hot and muggy, very little wind, there are bugs in my tent and that left us to sleep fully clothed with jeans and long sleeves, covered in a blanket and hoping that would help OR sleeping in a sleeping bag that is fit for 15 degree weather.

We opted to sleep out… which meant, we did not sleep, between the heat and the bites at any exposed skin… necks seem to be a bug fave.

At 12:00 I heard from Mr. T: What time is it?

Me, fully awake: Midnight.

1:30: What time is it?

Me: 1:30.

Mr. T: Gah! When is this night going to be over?

1:45: Time?

Me: 1:45.

Over and over until at 4:30, it cooled off, I crawled into the sleeping bag and we all slept for 2 hours.

Well… they slept longer, but Ringo, who actually slept through the entire thing as bugs evidently don’t like him, had his cell set for 6AM so he could go fishing. Being the good Mom that I am, I got up and gave him a small box of cereal for him to eat dry, and a bottle of Frappacino, kissed his forehead and said, “Going back to bed…”

The next day was beautiful. The winds were picking up and it was cooler. We kept saying as long as we had plenty of wind and it was cool, the bugs would stay away.

The boys fished all day, but by 4:00, Mr. T started having a bad reaction to all the bites he’d incurred; I ended up having to get something for him. By 7:00 PM he was on Benadryl and our friends with a pop up camper said, “let him sleep with us…” and so he went to sleep with his buddy, in the air conditioning, in the bug free zone.

That turned out to be a good move on our part because…

… the wind really picked up.

I realized it might be a ‘rough night’ at 9PM, when alone near my tent, a shelter my girlfriend set up for shade, not staked to the ground, flipped over and started for my fire pit.

Envisioning a 15’ x 8’ flying torch, I jumped in and grabbed it as it was inches from the hot coals. I was able to flip it past the fire with the aid of the wind, finally standing in the middle of it, trying to call her on her cell.

I could hear her cell ringing in her pop up… she and he nowhere to be found. As good fortune would have it, my eldest son, at another campsite, picked up when I called, found my friends and they hustled over so we could take apart the potential torch… or kite… take your pick. (I wasn’t sure how it was assembled, it was dark, and I was busy trying to hold the damn thing to the ground…)

By 10PM the remaining boys were with me in our tent, Ringo up against one side with Bones in the middle and me spooned next to him as he was afraid of the wind. I quietly told him over and over it would be fine… but I myself was not so happy as the wind started to pick up.

By 10:30, we were being buffeted around like a kite. The noise made it difficult to sleep, but the tent caving in to nearly ¾ of it, touching the ground and then *BOING!* popping back into place, was a bit more than I could stand. Repeat this three to four times a minute, sometimes more fierce than others and the downtime, there was the whole buffeting thing going on.

I looked over at Ringo, and he lay there, back to me, sleeping. Through it all.

The kid could sleep on the flat bed of a truck full of shovels.

Bones was starting to wig out. Over and over he pleaded, “Please, can we sleep in the van?” Quietly and soothingly the following conversation took place, to the best of my recollection:

Me: Son, will we get hurt if it caves in? It is not made of bricks and cement…

Bones: No.

Me: So, tell me what will happen if it collapses?

Bones: We’ll crawl out.

Me: And then?

Bones: You’ll fix it.

Me: Exactly.

But even I was getting edgy. It was just too windy and the tent was just getting too bouncy, and I looked out to see neighbors (people I didn’t know) surveying their pop up, taking fly aways down, and I thought, “Hmmm…”

Wondering about potential bad weather and how much worse it could get, come 11:00, I said, ‘Who wants to sleep in the van?”

Bones was up in a flash, but faster still was his older brother who said, “This tent collapsing on me is really irritating. It keeps waking me up…” and with that, he grabbed his pillow and made his way to the van.

Bones followed closely on his heels.

I grabbed their bedrolls and set them up, so everyone had a place to sleep, Ringo in the back (I had the back bench seat folded into the well… Sienna’s do that… so there was a flat place on the floor of the vehicle), and Bones across the two middle seats. I sat in the driver’s seat, reclined, and not very comfortable.

It may be good sleeping if you are 9 or 13, but it is not good sleeping when one is 43. And it made my calf and tibial tendon ache… not good. (Yes, I have re-strained it; tomorrow’s therapy should be interesting and painful.)

By 2AM I decided, “OK, I’m sick of this. If the wind calms down, I’m moving back to the tent…”

I looked out the rear view mirror and… it wasn’t there! NO kidding, as my eyes adjusted, I could make out just an outline of a PORTION of my tent.

I sat there thinking, and laughing, “You have got to be frickin’ kidding me. My tent… has collapsed.”

At 5:30, I decided to check on it, finding it to be true. A main tent pole had snapped, probably from all the other storms it had been through having compromised the structural integrity of the tent pole at the various joints, and the entire back end crushed in.

Needless to say, that was the big talk this morning. People passing my car, my asleep in the front seat, my tent collapsed behind the van… had many people talking.

So it has been two nights since I’ve had any good sleep and I am REALLY looking forward to tonight.

I am a fair weather camper. I really am…

And I do wonder… exactly what will my boys remember? I know I ask this frequently. Will they remember the Mom driven half insane by their fighting, not listening, and perpetual over stimulation of my personality, the Mom whose head surely must spin around three times while green spews forth out of my eyes and mouth as if I’m in need of an Exorcism?

Or will they remember a Mom who took them camping?

I think they think this is the norm… this ‘Mom takes three boys camping’ alone… winging it.

It is their norm… but I do wonder… what will they remember?

And for the record, dinner’s conversation tonight was hilarious as they recounted the trials and tribulations of this weekend… talking from each of their perspectives. It had me laughing.

Classic Bones was, and I swear he said this, “You know Mom, as we were laying there in the tent, with the wind whipping around us, and we could hear the tent flapping so loud we could not sleep, I looked over to the Pop Up camper and realized that Mr. T was listening to the quiet hum of an air conditioner and had no idea it was even windy.”


Posted by Boudicca at October 19, 2008 08:07 PM

I so admire your ability to do this! I am a total camping weenie.

Posted by: PeggyU at October 20, 2008 02:02 AM

They will remember camping. Tribulations are part of what make camping fun!

Posted by: oddybobo at October 20, 2008 08:18 AM

You are a saint! My parents took me camping, but we had the luxury of a pop up! LOL!

Posted by: pam at October 20, 2008 09:07 AM

Oddybobo is right, they'll remember it like a war story when they get older. And they'll feel cooler than the other kids who didn't take ANY trips, or who only went to tourist traps like Disney World.

Posted by: George at October 20, 2008 10:07 AM

Holy crap - they will remember Mom took them camping...

And I am sooooo *not* camping next weekend. Good grief. This post should be a PSA...

Posted by: Richmond at October 20, 2008 07:05 PM

That sounds miserable, the bugs...ick.

DH and I used to be prolific hikers, and campers. (carry it in, carry it out, if you need it you carry it. To the point of me cutting off the toothbrush handle to save on weight, water is heavy you know)

WE have not done any hard core hiking or camping in years. Pre-kids.

But getting eating alive by bugs...gross...never had that problem while hiking.

I have 3 rules about camping with DH. I need a shower at least every 24 hours. Hot water a must. I also do not rise and start a fire and make coffee, but I require it, I also make him do the cooking.

So it sort of evens out, I I just have to walk and hike, and get to look at pretty scenery all day, and gets to do what I do at home, and he eats it up.

We sooo wanted to take the kids this fall, it is lovely and cool at night, no bugs, perfect....but DH's schedule does not permit it.

Looks like a night in the tent, in the back might be in order.

Good luck with your continued adventures, and of course they will remember Mom taking them camping...they will remember it fondly. They won't remember the cussing, or sheer treachery...

Posted by: awtm at October 20, 2008 10:18 PM

OMG, what a riot ! Your boys are so lucky to have a mom like you.

Posted by: Mike D. at October 21, 2008 02:20 AM