Tuesday, July 7, 2009

My very first time camping

The 4th of July has come and gone - a big camping weekend for a lot of people. Ole and I usually plan to take off on an extended trip ab out the middle of July and plan to be gone about a month or so. We usually head for the high country - the mountains out in western Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. This year we've had to do a bit of rearranging due to a commitment that Ole has - he has to go to Little Sturgis, Kentucky in mid July and will be gone for a week. So we won't be able to head out on our vacation until the end of July. I'm SO looking forward to our trip - I really need a break from all the work we've had this spring/summer.

As kids growing up we didn’t do any camping. I guess my parents had enough of their version of camping when we were gypsies living in a trailer following the road construction crew. About the most outdoorsy that my father ever got was going on regular fishing trips even though they were only a day long. It was mandatory that us kids go along every Saturday or Sunday and spend the afternoon out on the lake. My father had a homemade pontoon boat that he had installed a Model A engine on, steering wheel and everything, so we could really zip around the lake and get to those fishing holes quickly. I digress.

So by the time I married Ole and we moved to Iceland, I had never experienced any form of camping out overnight. Now Ole had been a Boy Scout as a kid and loved camping. He had experienced what he SAID was a wonderful week up on the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area of northern Minnesota. Sleeping in sleeping bags on top of rocks with mosquitoes big enough to suck you dry of blood and then carry you away; finding the biggest rock you can to hide behind to empty your bladder and hope there’s no bear within reach; those things just aren’t my idea of a good time.

So we’re living in Iceland and along comes the 4th of July weekend. Ole decides we’re going to take a camping trip up to the northern part of the country and rents tents, sleeping bags and all the gear we need without consulting me. “Come on, Lena, pack some food, we’re going camping!” Yah, you betcha (Grrrr). We managed to cram everything into the little Volkswagen Beatle that we had at the time and took off – in the rain.

Now mind you, there are only 30 miles of paved road in Iceland that go between the NATO base and Reykjavik, and obviously we’re not going to Reykjavik. You can’t even call the other roads gravel – they’re covered in cinders which is an abundant material leftover from all the volcanoes that blow their stacks in what seems to be a regular interval on the island. In many cases the roads aren’t even built up, they’re just plowed through the cindery soil with a road grader leaving windrows of cinders on each side for you to get your wheels caught in when you meet a car. Most roads are only one lane wide, so meeting another vehicle can be quite an adventure

We eventually made it to our destination where we were actually able to camp in a campground so we had bathroom and shower facilities, but it was still raining. The day came when we had to start for home, and by this time due to all the rain the roads were quite greasy and slippery, so we didn’t make very good time. There were no hotels along the way, which Ole wouldn’t have spent the night in anyway – after all we’re CAMPING. Nor were there any actual campgrounds. And remember, there are no trees in Iceland either – just rocks. So about 10 o’clock at night we pulled off the road and set up camp alongside a pretty little stream. Remember, it’s still light out at that time, and it’s still raining. I found a big rock to hide behind, did what I had to do, gathered water from the stream to heat so I could wash my face and hands and crawled into my sleeping bag ready for a good night’s sleep, or as good as I could expect.

Now Ole has always been a very sound sleeper. You could explode dynamite under him when he’s sleeping and it wouldn’t wake him up. About 3 o’clock in the morning I was awakened by a very loud scraping sound, I opened my eyes (it’s still light out, you know) and was sure I saw the entire tent shaking and quivering. Oh my gosh, I thought we were in the midst of an earthquake with nowhere to go. I just knew the earth was going to open a big crevasse and swallow us up and no one would ever find us. The noise and the shaking kept on for what seemed like forever. I was finally able to shake Ole awake, and in his groggy state of mind he unzipped the tent to see what was going on. We had been invaded by ICELANDIC SHEEP who were chewing on all the tent ropes, I suppose trying to lick the salt off that had accumulated from human hands over the years. It took only a few more seconds and one end of our tent collapsed on top of us!! As soon as the sheep saw us they skittered away to the other side of the stream and stood there watching, and probably snickering, at those stupid humans who were trying to put their tent back up.

We made it home without any further adventures, but I refused to ever go tent camping again. And we didn’t – until after Lovely Daughter was born.

Actually she was several years old when we bought our first camper – a pop-up tent camper – still a pain in the neck and not warm on the cold nights. Then we graduated to what we called “The Egg.” It was a white fiberglass trailer about 10 feet long, just room enough for the three of us to sleep in, and room enough for the big black lab named Jess that we had at the time to sleep on the floor. There was a furnace in The Egg, but we rarely had to turn it on because Jess gave off so much heat he managed to keep the place warm.

One September we were involved in a campout that consisted of old car enthusiasts. A couple of the guys who had come to the campout without their wives had gone out to the bars for the evening and came back quite late. This campout took place in northern Minnesota, so the night was quite frosty. These two guys had their tent camper set up next to us so we could hear them when they came home. Ole and a couple of other guys had decided to play a joke on them and turned their camper around 180 degrees. Of course it was quite dark when the guys came back from the bar, and thought they were on the right end of their camper but for some reason couldn’t find the zipper to get in. We could hear them scratching around on their tent, stumbling here and there, and then a big yell when someone tripped over the tongue of the trailer which wasn’t where it was supposed to be (chuckle). Well, they finally got situated inside their tent but hadn’t really prepared for the temperatures so they were pretty cold and couldn’t go to sleep. Finally one of them knocked on our door and asked if they could borrow Jess, our dog, in order to keep warm!! Of course, I wouldn’t loan them Jess, he was OUR heat source – and the only extra blanket I had along was the one that Jess was sleeping on. So I offered them Jess’s blanket, full of dog hair and holes, and they gratefully took it. Jess didn’t care, he was always warm anyway.

We slowly graduated upwards in our camping experiences, and now we camp in this:

It’s a 40’ diesel pusher motorhome with a superslide and all kinds of bells and whistles. I have more conveniences in my motorhome than my mother did in the trailer house that we called home and had to live in 12 months out of the year. My mother would have thought she had died and gone to heaven if she had been able to live in that.

Isn’t it amazing what we take for granted?

Anyway, that’s the story of my very first camping trip. And I'm so anxious to get going again on our next trip headed west.


Carolyn said...

I have loved to camp for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up in Oklahoma, my great aunt (who also loved to camp) would take me to the lake and we would stay for most of the summer. Working family members would visit on the weekends. Bill & I tent camped with the kids until the summer before Mike was a senior in high school. We bought a pickup camper that barely slept the 5 of us. Now we have a huge luxurious 5th wheel. I still love to camp, but wouldn't go back to tend camping if you paid me! These old bones need a bed to sleep in.

Paula said...

You have the best stories. I love your modern day camper. I used to camp as a girl scout and a few times as an adult but as romantic as it sounds to go way out in the middle of no where and relax...it's not very relaxing...I just hate tent sleeping...perhaps a pop up but that on the ground stuff wears thin.

Memaw's memories said...

I never camped as a child. We couldn't leave the farm long enough to go have fun.

I did camp with my husband and children when the oldest two were small, but my last child didn't get the experience.

I have wonderful memories of camping.

Grandma Elsie said...

What a gift for story telling you have gal...
I need those laughs..
I am so glad I found you or was it you found me .
O well doesn't matter ,now that I am here laughing my head off.
I will be back,,,you bet your cow pile on that.LOL

~ Sil in Corea said...

Heh! Have had some memorable camping experiences, but in my old age, I like at least 3 inches of foam rubber between me and the rocks. Giggling like crazy!!! Those sheep, lol!!!

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