Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Let's go glamping

Right now I am heading out the door to A16 to purchase a new solar shower and a self-inflating, luxury air mattress in preparation of our upcoming camping trip. It's rather amazing that I actually look forward to camping and sleeping under the stars, particularly after my first disastrous 'wilderness' experience.

I was 12-years old and we had just moved from the comfortable Semitic confines of Flushing, NY to the unfamiliar, uncomfortable suburbia of Suffern, NY, where the average resident had never heard of, much less eaten, a bagel. To acclimate us to our new home, my father enrolled me in the local Boy Scouts, Troop 25, led by Scoutmaster Charley Jones, a hard-charging, red-nosed, NYC Detective who was long on discipline and short on anything else.

No sooner had I been fitted with my neo-military uniform and earned my first merit badge in Chess, did I learn Charley had scheduled the annual Klondike Camping Festival. In the middle of January.

On a patch of land off Route 59 that was owned by a local church and has now been paved over for a Walmart, 30 of us gathered in temperatures that hovered in the high teens and snow that came up above our knees. The 30 included 27 boys and three grown men who cherished the opportunity to get away from their wives and re-acquaint themselves with an old buddy, Jack Daniels.

I was sent to this arctic wasteland with the barest of essentials, including my father's old Army issue sleeping bag. He was stationed in Georgia, where the humidity and the temperature, rarely drop below 90. Subsequently the sleeping bag, and I hesitate to call it that, was not the paragon of insulation. It wasn't filled with down or feathers. In fact, it was constructed during the war so I'm pretty sure the Army filled it with lint collected from the barracks laundry facilities.

I'm not sure I slept a wink that entire weekend. Not because the paper thin sleeping bag wasn't comfortable. It wasn't. But because it's hard to drift off to sleepy land with the constant chattering of your own teeth. Perhaps that's why I'm such a fan of shows like Survivorman or Dual Survival. Had I known then what I know now, I would have grabbed some live pine boughs and needles and created a pad to preserve body heat. Or better yet, I would have swiped a pint of bourbon from Charley's backpack and gone to sleep the way a real camper does, drunk.

I guess it was all part of my dad's plan. He believed adversity built character. And there's probably some truth to that. But sometimes character is overrated. Besides, I have daughters. And we're headed up to Independence, CA where the high Sierra sun bakes the temperature well into three digits.

Maybe A16 has a camping air conditioner?

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