Not Quite Pitching a Tent…

Johnny-on-the-Spot … by John Foster

Just recently, my son-in-law, oldest grandson and I went on a “guy’s only” camping trip.

That meant there weren’t elaborately planned out meals and lots of activities.

It was all about camp fires, cigars and beer.

Burgers, hot dogs and chips for dinner the first night, coffee, sausage, peanut butter toast for breakfast followed by steaks and potatoes for supper the next night.

(Actually the potatoes that night were potato chips.)

“Roughing it” would be an improper term.

We slept in a 32 foot recreational vehicle, decked out with a refrigerator/freezer, complete kitchen, including a microwave, a tiny bathroom (especially for full-grown men) and a shower. The R-V also has an awning and air conditioning (if we needed or wanted it…We didn’t).

However, all the adult beverages and other drinks were in ice-filled coolers. I think beer tastes best from an icy cooler.

I also heard that we had 40 gallons of water to use and we cooked on a nifty Coleman stove.

We enjoyed a good cigar sitting around the campfire our first night, not because we really like cigars but it was something we could do without the women grumbling about the odor.

Across the lake from our campsite was a little bar with live music and we played “Name That Tune” while enjoying a late summer night in the midwest.

Statistically, the majority of U.S. campers are 35 year old while males.

We average out closer to 50 but I take the blame for that.

It’s been said that camping embodies the spirit of escaping everyday life and embracing the outdoors.

It’s one of the few things I can do and not feel guilty about doing nothing.

Researchers claim that camping is one of the most effective ways to reset your “natural clock”.

We went to sleep when we were tired ands we woke up when we were ready.

No alarm clocks or clock radios.

I discovered about one in 7 Americans go camping every year, or about 42 million of us.

Men account for 75% of camping deaths in American each year.

I’m willing to bet many of those fatalities were preceded by the cry, “Hey! Hold my beer and watch this!”

Most camping deaths involve drowning and falling but auto accidents and suicides are also responsible for fatalities.

In U.S. national parks up to 140 people die every year but with more than 280 million Americans visiting those parks annually, you have just a one in two million chance of dying while camping.

You’re at greater risk driving to and from your camping destination.

While much of camping in America is done in state parks, we were parked in a local recreational area.

We had access to a miniature golf course so we had to hold the first annual “3 Guys Camping Memorial Golf Tournament”.

It was more than fitting for a lousy bunch of putters that we all finished with identical scores of 56 for 18 holes.

When you average better than 3 strokes per hole in miniature golf, you are pretty sad.

But we had fun ribbing one another.

Most of the time, though, we spent relaxing, sitting around the campfire ring whether it was blazing or not.

Studies say the typical American camps 3.8 times a year, 2.7 nights, and we drive nearly 150 miles to our destination.

When we were much younger, my wife and I tent camped because I think we realized it was a relatively inexpensive way to entertain two young children when they were on summer break.

Once we got past the initial investment for the tent and camping gear, it was a great way to keep the kids occupied.

Did you ever have a youngster moan, “I’m bored!”?

As long as they had their lapboards filled with crayons, coloring books and small games, they’d go anywhere and willingly nap in sleeping bags on small air mattresses.

If you talk to either of our daughters, they will probably bring up a childhood camping experience or two.

These days, while tent camping is the most popular shelter for campers, my idea of roughing it is either an R-V or a trailer.

I don’t need all the comforts of home but I have no desire to pitch a tent in the dark or worry if that rumbling thunder off in the distance is going to create a new leak in my weekend canvas home.

Humorist Dave Barry claims “It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent”.

But, I must tell you one of the most humbling experiences is to be camping along one of the Great Lakes and watch an approaching thunderstorm.

With nothing between you and the storm but open water, the thunder rumbles louder and the lightning flashes are more vivid.

It’s one of my favorite camping experiences.

This weekend, there were no storms but plenty of gentle breezes swooshing through the tops of the large pine trees where we were camped.

The combination of nighttime campfires and a nearby lake provided a great opportunity for some great discussions intermingled with quiet thoughts and introspection.

I would encourage all grandads, dads and sons to have at least one similar experience before all you can do is wish you would have done it.

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