Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Camping 101

“First thing this morning, before I do anything else, I’m gonna have a shower.” I say to myself as I escape the suffocating heat of my borrowed tent.
There, in the sliver of shade the tent provides, is my low-to-the-ground beach chair, so I flop into it, planning my next course of action:
Find two towels, one for body, one for hair.
Go back into tent and look for shampoo, rinse, soap, razor, clean underwear.
Leave a note for kids, so that when they wake up they’ll know where I am.

Ten minutes later, I make my way to the campground’s central bathroom facility.
“Closed for Cleaning”.
So I walk back to the site I’m sharing with a friend just in time to see Drew stumble from the oven we both sleep in.
“Can I have some breakfast?” he asks.
I get a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch ready for him and notice that my cooler is filled with water and not ice.
“After my shower, I definitely have to buy ice.” I tell myself.
Drew is finishing up his cereal as Clint enters our tarp covered picnic table area. He’s been sleeping with 3 friends at another family’s site.
“How was your night?” I ask.
“Fine. What’s for breakfast? Can I have eggs?”
After he’s eaten, Max saunters into our eating area. He too has been sleeping with friends.
“Can I have some eggs like Clint?”
“Uh huh.”

An hour after my first attempt, I head back up to the showers.
There’s a sign in the lone shower stall; “3 minute showers – 50 cents. American Quarters Only.”
I am in Orville, Washington, camping with 7 other families. The temperature hovers around 40 degrees during the day and drops to 30 degrees at night. I am in a borrowed tent, sharing cooking equipment with a friend and trying desperately to attend to my personal grooming. I do not have any American change on me.

Drew is waiting for me at the campsite. “Can I go swimming?”
“Yeah. Matthew is going. ‘Kay?”
“I can’t come watch you. I’m trying to have a shower. If Clint will keep an eye on you, then OK.”
They head off to the shallowest lake I’ve ever seen. Together.
I head off to the main office to see if I can buy a few quarters.
“Can I buy some American coin?” I inquire.
“How much?”
“Enough for a good shower…”
She opens her drawer and shakes her head.
“I think it would be better if you went across the street to the department store and ask for change at their customer service counter…”
I walk back to my campsite, grab my towel, toothbrush, face soap, make up and charge back up to the bathroom. Can’t very well go to a department store with sleep in my eyes and scuzz on my teeth.
With my “face” on, I go back to my site, where Brita asks me if I’d like to join her at a swimming spot down the road. “It’s very pretty there…”
“Sounds good. When are you going?”
“In a few minutes.”
“Uh. I have to go to Prince’s to get some ice and American quarters. I should be back in a sec.”
I underestimated.
It took 45 minutes. By the time I got back, she was gone.
So I drain my coolers, add 4 bags of ice and gather all my crap up again so that I can finally have my shower.
“We’re all going to the river? Want to come?” Chris asks as she walks past my site.
“Uh. I’ll check with my boys. If they want to, sure. Thanks for asking.”
I put down my towels and shampoo, and walk over to the beach.
Drew meets me in the parking area. “Mom! We’re going to the river. Hurry, let’s go.”
Clint’s over at the Marten’s and he’s not sure he wants to go. Max is with the Steltings and he definitely is joining us.
“Don’t worry about packing a lunch,” Chris advises. “Just bring some chips and pop as a snack. We’re eating a late lunch when we get back.”
“Lunch? I’m still trying to have my first-thing-in-the-morning-shower.”

River swimming is refreshing. Clear, clean, cool water. Deep water. Soft sand. Cliffs to jump off. Rattlesnakes to run from.

Two and a half hours later we are back at the campsite, deciding on lunch. It’s 41 degrees with no breeze and they want me to boil water for hotdogs. The ice is melting in my cooler and I figure I’ll be back at Prince’s for more before I get to see the inside of a shower stall.
I barely had the pot cleaned and put away when Drew was ready to go swimming again. “Let’s go, mom.”
Weakly I said, “But I wanted to wash my hair…”
“Come on. Everyone’s at the beach. Matt and Trent are waiting for me…”

At 9:30 pm, after the dishes were done and everyone settles around fires (Fires! In this heat…) I gather up my things again, and go straight to the shower. Where I stand in line for an hour before I can take my turn slipping quarters into a coin operated system.

Who says camping is laid back and easy? I was under pressure all day long. All I wanted to do was wash my hair. Numerous failed attempts after hours of planning left me frustrated and exhausted.
The whole experience taught me an important lesson, a Camping 101 Beginners Rule:
One should not wake up with a plan when tenting. Preconceived notions on acceptable levels of cleanliness are useless when sharing shower space with 300 other campers.
Obviously camping is not the place to be for a woman with control issues. Rather than expect the opportunity to clean my hair, I should consider it a blessing; a gift, to be able to stand under a lukewarm trickle no matter what time of day I get my turn.

The other lessons learned?
-Always have some currency of the country you’re visiting in your pocket.
-Have earplugs packed. Tent canvas, surprisingly, is not soundproof.
-Bring along at least one regular sized lawn chair. Hoisting one’s fat ass off those low riders is tiresome at the end of the day.
- Never offer hotdogs as a lunchtime meal option.


Three things I’m thankful for:
1. The sun. Warm, healing, bright, light-giving sunshine.
2. The moon. Cool, calming, romantic, reflective moon-light.
3. The God who made them both.

And not so much…
A thirsty truck that drinks a tank of gas a day.

Take care.

No comments: