Stephanie and Michelle entering the foyer
We just returned from our fourth annual Memorial Day Weekend camping trip. We started this tradition with four other families and have hit different North Carolina parks each year.
I’m not sure why we go. None of us are really camping people. We’d be much more comfortable at the Ritz Carlton in Key Biscayne, Fla. Of course, this is easier on the pocketbook, and I guess we all want our kids to spend some time outside looking at stars and enjoying nature and stuff.
One thing that keeps me from being a more frequent camper is the lack of adequate bathrooms. In fact, on the way to Jones Lake in Elizabethtown, we took a 30 minute detour to my parent’s house in Fayetteville for one last pit stop before closing down the old plumbing until we got back home. I called my dad to tell him we were coming and to stock each bathroom with a new roll of Charmin. When we hit the driveway, we noticed the sign he’d hung on the door – “Clean Restrooms Available!”
I was glad we made that stop. At the campground, the men’s bathroom had stalls but no doors; at least I didn’t see any from where I was standing (I didn’t actually go back there). I have a phobia about no stall doors.
One time when I was the director of the Cary YMCA, I was making my nightly rounds. I hit the men’s lockerrom and as always, began flushing all toilets since our male members seldom did. I hit the three urinals and the first stall quickly – I was in a hurry as always. When I flew into the second stall – the door was wide open – much to my surprise, there was a man sitting there. I didn’t really glance up until I was nose to nose with the dude.
I ran to my office and stayed there until thirty minutes after the building closed. I left all bathroom patrols to our maintenance staff from that day forward.
That incident scarred me. I wonder how he’s doing.
Our family at the West Entrance
About six years ago my father-in-law asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I suggested a pup tent built for two. DJ and I had joined the YMCA’s Y-Princess program, and I knew we’d have to camp together once a year. I told him there was a small tent, just our size, for $20 at Target.
On Christmas Day, I opened my large box. Inside was a $350 Sierra Design tent from REI – it slept six – adults. David doesn’t always get you what you want – he often gets you what he thinks you need. He makes up his mind, consults Consumer Reports and you get the top of the line!
I wondered what in the heck I was going to do with a tent that large. It was more square footage than my first apartment. The east wing had a closet and the dining room sat 8.
To my surprise, I’ve used the dang thing 15 or 20 times over the years – often sleeping four or more folks. David ws right, I did need a big tent. One that I could be proud of. In fact, one of my camping buddies had tent envy last year and showed up this year with an upgrade. That made me walk a little taller around the campfire.
I don’t understand why they make tent and sleeping bag covers 12% smaller than the actual tent or sleeping bag. I busted three blood vessels in my head trying to shove the dang sleeping bags back into the holders. I nearly pulled my back out trying to squish all the air out of the blow up matress. I was hugging it with both arms while I squeezed the middle with my legs. I felt like a boaconstrictor; all this work to make a single matress fit in a carrying case the size of a sandwich bag.
My friend Martin can make wet wood burn. I think he's a Boy Scout or a Warlock.
At 2:30 am on Saturday night, my buddy’s truck alarm went off. Lights were flashing and the horn was going nuts. It scared the mess out of everyone – at least everyone in my tent. I spent the next hour wondering what could have caused that alarm to go off. I narrowed it down to three things – a mechanical malfunction, a theif, or a big animal. The third potential was the most unnerving. Heck, there was a bear walking around downtown Garner last week – imagine what could have been lurking in the woods in Bladen County, NC.
I saw Jeff walk by my tent to go check things out. I briefly considered getting up and going with him, but I decided it would probably be better just to listen and keep my phone close. Although I had a great tent, it wasn’t bear proof and we were the closest family to the cars.
Last night after we were in our tent and the lights were out, the girls asked me to tell them a ghost story. I shared about Crazy Nell who was killed right there in Elizabethtown many years before. When I finished, DJ said, “I believe in ghosts.” And Michelle added, “And the holy Catholic Church.”
Our minister will be glad to know she’s been paying attention during the Apostle’s Creed.
I wish I could post more pictures but one of the moms there told me if I put a picture of her on this blog after a night of camping that Crazy Nell’s death would look tame compared to what she would do to me. From her tone and the look in her eyes, I think she was serious.
Can’t wait until next year! Thank you camping buds.
I'm allowed to publish this picture -these are the clouds that produced 10 inches of rain all over our camp site.