How To Enjoy Camping Even When Everything Goes Wrong
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I love, love, love camping!
I have done all kinds of camping; tenting, pop-ups, bumper pull campers, Class A and C RV’ing, and my most favorite, horse camping.
My brain goes into overtime when I set my sights on my next camping trip; who do I want to invite, how long will I go for, do I want to rough-it or watch some cable TV on vacation, will I eat out or cook over the fire, and even, will I bring a horse or two?
Fortunately, most camping trips are all butterflies and rainbows. I will say that if you camp often enough and long enough, you will have experiences that will make you want to list your camper for sale on Craigslist while you’re still camping!
I’ve compiled a list of camping memories that I have experienced first-hand. Yes folks, I have experienced all of these and still get butterflies when I plan another camping trip.
I hope you don’t allow my funky memories to deter you from camping if you’re an “about to be first-timer”.
I survived them all and can laugh about them even though the mice debacle happened just yesterday. Ewww!
So, I’ll being with…
My weekend camping trip started the same as most. Enroute, I stopped for gas and got my devil delight, Cheetos. I opt for the Simply White Cheddar version so I’m not branded for the weekend with orange finger tips. But I digress.
I arrived at the campground excited, full of Cheetos, and looking forward to a wonderful 3 days of volunteering at a charity event.
Since this was a horse-camping trip, I immediately tended to my trusty steed, shook hand and kissed a few babies, went potty, and headed into the camper just at dark to get a cold refreshment out of the refrigerator.
My cell started ringing so I quickly put my glasses on to answer (don’t ask – it’s a weird habit of mine). While on the phone with a prospective client, my eyes saw what no person should see at dusk and hours from home. MICE POOP. Everywhere.
I quickly ended my phone call – sorry Janet W, and assessed the bedlam. All I could say was ewww, ewwww, ewwww, until I opened a cabinet door and met Mr Micky face to face.
The gloves came off and I declared war. I used SMEP (standard mouse elimination procedures) so I won’t bore you with that.
The end of the story is I slept in my truck overnight and am no worse for the wear.
Moral of the story: ALWAYS have mouse traps, bait, Irish Spring soap or whatever form of SMEP you subscribe to, with you.
A long, long time ago, I was camping with my young family. We were at a campground that had a beach and my son, the prince, loved to swim.
We packed a picnic lunch (which really means I’m too cheap to buy lunch) and headed for a day of fun and frolic in the sand. We stopped frolicking for a snack at lunch-time. It really was a fantastic day until I looked at my 2-year-old son, the prince, and his face and hands were COVERED with ants.
Moral of the story: ALWAYS check the box before handing it to a toddler AND pack ant bait.
Mechanical Failures, Faux paus, and Ooops’s
A long time ago I was going camping with another family. We were both bringing campers. I drove with my girlfriend and the “boys” rode together.
We had walki-talkies because cell phones had not been invented yet. Suddenly, we got a frantic message from the boys that we needed to pull over immediately.
It seems that my friend’s trailer had a flat that morning and her hubby had only hand tightened the lug nuts. Apparently, the wheel was wobbling and about to fall off. Moral of the story: Double check the lug nuts when you change a flat.
I was driving an RV cross country and during the trip I knew I’d have to cross the Rockies several times. Along the way, I asked two mechanics if I should use my brakes or downshift when going downhill.
I got different answers from both so the first half of the trip I braked, the second half I downshifted.
I got all the way back to Niagara, New York and sitting at a traffic light my transmission let burst. The pavement looked like a giant pregnant RV just had its’ water break.
Moral of the Story: Ask YOUR mechanic if you should downshift or brake when going over the Rockies
During another cross country trip I was again crossing the Rockies when my motor started to backfire uncontrollably.
I fired a look at my husband who said, and I quote, “Don’t worry, that happens to 18-wheelers all the time.” He lied, the RV eventually would not move one more inch further uphill. I had to back down to a spot where I could turn around.
Backfired all the way to an RV repair place. It was old, crappy battery wires.
Moral of the story: Husbands lie to prevent an anxious driver from freaking out.
Moral of the story Part Deux: Join a service like AAA, Good Sam, US Rider, etc. You’ll need a tow or two on long trips and they are !
Warm Refrigerators, Lack of Gas (propane that is!), Cold Nights
OK, let’s tackle these issues one at a time.
Warm refrigerators can happen for many reasons; a broken refrigerator, the pilot blown out by high winds, a mouse nest in the flue preventing the gasses to rise, and my personal favorite – run out of propane.
Don’t fret, if you don’t open the refrigerator it will stay cold long enough for you to remove said mouse nest and/or go buy propane.
Cold nights – Your furnace can quit without even so much as a letter of resignation. Commons causes of ccccold nights include a broken furnace requiring a fix-it man, not running your generator to recharge your batteries when you are camping off-grid (the blower fan really drains the battery power) and my personal favorite – run out of propane.
My suggestion is to keep the clothes on that you’ve worn all day and add a few more layers. You’ll need them! Moral of the story: ALWAYS pack extra propane.
No Room at the Inn
Even the best laid plans run amuck. You meant to get all the way to X Campground and; your dog wouldn’t stop throwing up, your kid pooped all over himself, you had way to much fun at lunch, you got lost, you shopped for way too long and bam, you’re not going to make it to X Campground.
No problem, we’ll just reserve another one. Ya right. It’s Friday night of Memorial Day weekend and there is no room at the inn!
Don’t freak out! Ask the local campground if they have a field you can pay them to park and just get some sleep.
If that’s a no-go, google where the nearest Walmart, Lowes, Flying J, truck stop, etc. are and head there. Hey, it’s better than driving all night!
Moral of the Story: Go with the flow.
Crying Like a Baby
Yep, babies cry, people fight, and some (most) campers get drunk while camping. Be diplomatic. Well, be smart. Don’t take the challenge of quieting noisy neighbors on yourself.
That’s one of the reasons you are paying to stay there. Notify the management and let them handle it.
Moral of the story: Don’t be a hero.
I used to have a tent named Old Leaky. I eventually got smart and bought No Leaky but until then, I used a couple of tricks to stay warm.
Always dig a small trench around your tent to give the water someplace to go rather than soaking into your floor. Always set your tent up on a tarp. Even more importantly, always tie a tarp to trees to form a roof several feet above the top of your tent. Pitch the tarp toward the back of your tent, not the door. Do you know why?
Moral of the story: Ask for a waterproof tent for your birthday.
Oh NO! I Gotta GO!
Sometimes the bathroom is a pretty far distance from your campsite. They sell portable “potties” now that have a privacy room. Brilliant!
Lion and Tigers and Bears – Oh My!
Unless you want to have a campsite that resembles the circus, you must be sure to put your food in a safe, enclosed place. A camper, car, hanging from a tree branch are good choices.
I was camping with friends when I was a teenager. We were playing cards in our tent and eating something – could have been Cheetos or something bad like that. We ended up having a food fight. Lo and behold, about 2 AM we were awakened by a bear scratching at the tent.
Moral of the story: Don’t have a food fight.
Who Put the Lights Out?
If you have a child that’s afraid of the dark, bring an assortment of flashlights. You’re going to need them! Make sure you have plenty of batteries too!
Sticky and Stinky and Sweet ALL Over
Bringing kids? Expect them to get sticky and stinky. They are going to play hard and eat toasted marshmallows. Invest in a cheap solar shower. Trust me, you will NOT want to sleep in the same space as a 10-year-old boy without him taking a shower first!
Google is great but for me, there’s nothing better than having that fat, campground filled book by Good Sam or another company, teeming with useful information that will help you make the perfect choice for your overnight stay.
Moral of the story: They are worth the $25.
Just This Once
I have been known to be the ultimate pain in the butt environmentalist. When it comes to camping though, I have been known to cross over to the dark side of disposables.
My one luxury I allow myself is wipes. I always pack Clorox and baby wipes. I could tell you dozens of stories of how I’ve used them but one stands out in my mind.
We were in South Dakota, headed for the Badlands. I was so excited, that is, until my son started vomiting. He had had a special treat for lunch. It was some kind of Kentucky Friend chicken that was red tinted.
Let’s just say that I needed both Clorox and baby wipes to finish of clean-up duty!
Don’t let my dilemmas discourage you from planning your first camping trip. I’ve been camping since I was 15 and have had scads of wonderful camping vacations!
Start planning yours!