Hi, all! Been a while…what cha all been up to? Me? Mostly just working my butt off to stay out of trouble. Yep…some things are harder to do than others and some things never change.
Well, remember the camping story from last summer? Yeah, I’m sure some of you do. I’m still trying to live that one down. And, as you’ve probably already figured out, I have not yet given up camping…but I’m now another story closer to it, I think. You guessed it…went camping again this week and, as some predicted, my luck held true…total disaster. Once again, God musta been having a slow week and needed a little entertainment…and he always knows right where to find me when he’s bored. So, here’s my sad but true tale….
As many of you already know, I have a passel of the most gorgeous, brilliant, talented grandsons a woman could ever hope for. In fact, they’re all darn near perfect. LOL Anyway, I decided to take a couple of them camping for a few nights at my favorite camp spot…Woods Canyon Lake. Yes, that is the same place I went last time…what’s your point? Stop snickering…I haven’t even gotten to the good part yet!.
They had been up north spending a few days with their grampa and I was going to pick them up from there on my way to the lake. So the packing and prep fell to me to do alone. Sigh…poor me! Anyway, I worked most of the day on Wednesday and headed out right after I got off work to pick them up. The plan was to be totally prepared with my list, all packed up in an orderly fashion, and leave home by 2pm. Reality was that my list never got completed so I was frantically stuffing last minute things in through the camper door to fall where they may in a jumbled heap, and I finally left town about 3:30pm. Still a better start than some I’ve had in the past…so far, so good.
I get the boys picked up from their grampa’s house and start up the hill. Just outside Payson I remember what I forgot…the birthday cake. One of the boys is turning 9 on this trip and there is no way I’m going to let him do it without a cake and a card, at least. So it’s a quick trip into the Payson WalMart. I send the boys off in one direction while I go in the other and sneak a birthday cake, card, and gift through checkout. And true to form, I get the new girl…the checker who’s still worried about doing it right and hasn’t yet figured out that everyone who comes through her line is not her new best friend. I wait patiently (well, almost) while she chats up the two families ahead of me and rings each and every item with slow deliberation…while she makes sure she gets everything folded just right and tucked into the bag in a neatly stacked fashion and that no bags are overloaded…while they chat about Aunt Mabel’s gallstones and Uncle Henry’s new false teeth (he needed new ones because the dog chewed up his old ones). Honest, I did good…didn’t say anything, didn’t sigh and huff, didn’t roll my eyes…okay, maybe a little eye rolling. But I was good, honest I was. No one even saw the eye rolling.
Finally, my turn comes and I try to look too busy rearranging all the “stuff” in my purse to chat. Doesn’t work. She just stops ringing things up and waits for me to free up so she can ask me how I’m doing. Now, I’m not always the sharpest point on a needle, but I can tell immediately that there’s a “chat quotient” that’s required in order to get through this line. So now I start talking really fast, hoping to get the chat out of the way quickly so I can get on my way…remember, I’ve still got a tent to pitch before it gets dark. Even with a fast chat, I’m not gonna make it. So I take a deep breath, suffer through the chat-fest, grab my bags, and make a run for the door as soon as she’s handed me my receipt. Freedom!!!
It’s now going on 7pm and the chances we’re gonna get that tent put up before dark are nil…now I’ve moved on and I’m praying I can at least get the lantern lit before complete dark falls. This trip has now become all about flexibility and shifting goals. Long story short, we get there and find a campsite that we can use for two nights. We’d hoped to stay three, but it seems everyone else in the Valley of the Sun is also sick of the heat – so they’re ALL there to camp at the same time we are. Okay, we’re flexible…we can shorten our trip to two nights…it’ll still be fun!
Time to set up the tent. Well, it’s an old tent and hasn’t been used since that fateful night last summer when I did a swan dive in front of the outhouse with my nightgown over my head. And it would appear that it’s finally reached the end of its shelf-life. The shock-cording in the pole sections is now all stretched out and getting the poles together while poking the little elastic string inside the ends takes a long time. Between that and the fact that I forgot you have to do one pole at a time, each one stringing over the top of the last…well, let’s just say it took us almost three hours (in the dark) to set up this stinking tent. Then there were air mattresses to fill and bedding to unload. The boys were real troopers and did everything I asked without complaint…did I mention they’re almost perfect? However, I’m sure the other campers were wishing we’d had a flat tire somewhere down the mountain.
But we did get the tent up finally and our beds were warm and comfy when we finally crawled into them sometime around midnight. Woo Hoo! We were now officially camping!!! As I lay there drifting off to sleep, I resolved that this would be my last trip in this old tent…when I got it home, it was going into the dumpster and a new tent might be my Christmas present to myself this year. After all, the tree’s still up. I could watch for a sale, buy it, stick it under the tree and I’d be ready to go come Christmas…I had my plan. Who needs a stinking list?
The next day dawned early but we chose to sleep late. With all in agreement, it was w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l…well, except for the three trips to the outhouse which was a very long ways away. Guess all that water I drank on the way up the mountain wasn’t my best idea. I’m thinking a porta potty may also end up under that tree this year!
After breakfast, we grabbed our fishing poles and drove down to the lake with visions of a dozen trout baking in tin foil over an open fire for dinner. I had the butter and lemon all ready in the ice chest. However, those trout in that lake apparently had visions of seeing another day, so they chose to forego the pleasure of “taking the bait”, so to speak, and we ended up coming back to camp empty-handed. Well, except for the rainbow power bait, the salmon eggs, and the worms we had purchased at the lake store. Good thing we had some steaks I’d brought along just in case or those worms mighta been dinner. Hey, it’s not my first fishing trip.
So come late afternoon, we lit a big fire and burned the wood down to coals and cooked our steaks. After dinner, we worked like hell to light the birthday candles in the wind that was starting to kick up, we sang happy birthday in triple-time (before the candles blew out), and we ate cake while my grandson opened his birthday present. It was fun. In fact, it was so much fun that we were a bit slow to notice the clouds that were gathering overhead. Uh-oh. With the first clap of thunder, we all jumped into action. Food went into garbage bags and ice chests, bags were thrown into the back of the truck, we grabbed the playing cards and our books, and jumped into the tent about 15 seconds after the rain started. Damp…not wet…got air mattresses and lots of blankets and sleeping bags…life is still good!
A few minutes later, as we’re getting situated in the tent, the birthday boy asks, “Gramma, does this tent leak?”
“Nah. It’s dry as a bone,” I replied. “We’ll be fine.”
He casts me a skeptical look as he rubs the top of his head. “Oh. Because I thought I felt a drop of water.”
I look up just to make sure. Nothing. I can see water drops on the top of the rain fly, but nothing dripping in. We’re fine. “Nope…just your imagination. We’re good.”
He nods and we set about trying to decide what we want to do while we wait in the tent.
About five minutes later, birthday boy asks again, “Gramma, you sure this tent doesn’t leak? I thought I felt another drop.”
“Nah…stop worrying. The only time I’ve ever had a problem was when I was up here with your folks a long time ago and it was pouring then. As long as the rain stays light, we’ll be just fine.”
Now, this is where things start to go wrong. Yeah, you knew it would because this is my story…and it did…it went wrong…it went very, very wrong. I had no sooner finished that statement…I mean, it was not even five seconds later that there was a huge clap of thunder and the noise immediately became deafening with the downpour that ensued. The three of us went dead silent and just stared at each other as we listened to the rain come beating down. I looked up toward the heavens and rolled my eyes and said, “Very funny.
Very funny.” This sent both grandsons into fits of laughter and they fell back on their mattresses in utter hysteria. Suddenly, the older grandson sits bolt upright and wipes his face. “Gramma, this tent is leaking. My bed’s wet and water just dropped on my face.”
Staring at the water trickling down his face, I could no longer ignore the fact that…yes, the tent was leaking. It was leaking like a sieve! As we started to look around in earnest, we realized water was not only leaking in through the roof…somehow, somewhere…it was also dripping in through the bottoms of the windows and soaking in at the base of the tent. Another 10 minutes and we’d be floating…especially since we’d opted to forego the tent stakes the night before.
“Time to move!” I ordered and everyone went into action. We initially intended just to get into the truck with our bedding to keep it (and us) from getting any wetter. But as soon as we stepped outside the tent and I saw how black the sky was, I knew we were in for a long, rainy night. “Boys, we’re gonna have to pack up and head home.” I expected an argument, but apparently they were just as convinced as I that sleeping in a floating tent was a bad idea.
“Okay, gramma, what do you want us to do?” Was the reply in stereo.
I put one kid in the cab of the truck and one kid in the camper to stack and stow gear as I ran back and forth bringing stuff out of the tent and handing it to one kid or the other. Once everything was loaded, I stood up under the raised camper window, soaked to the bone and shivering, as I stared at the tent and wondered how the heck I was going to get that big old sucker down in this pouring rain. Maybe there would be a break in the rain or at least a slowing where I could actually see what I was doing. NOT. So after about five minutes or so of shivering under that raised window, I finally ran out to the tent and started pulling the poles out of their holders. I managed to get them loosened enough to drop the tent to the ground, but when I tried to get the poles to slide out of the little sleeves, nothing would budge. The nylon was so wet that it was plastered to the poles and nothing would push through from any direction. As I frantically worked the poles, they started to break down inside the sleeves and I now had a series of short poles stuck inside these long sleeves. I gave up and ran to the truck, jumping into the driver’s seat. As I sat there shivering and trying to decide what to do, I grabbed the towels I’d thought to buy at WalMart and wrapped one around my head and one around my body, trying to hold onto some body heat. I was cold to the bone.
The boys sat quietly, just staring out the windows at the tent. Finally, the older one asked, “Gramma, are you okay?” At which point, I just started laughing hysterically and within seconds, we were all laughing like we’d lost our minds.Another grand adventure!
We waited about a half hour with no break or easing in the rain before I made the executive decision that we were leaving the tent right where it sat…which made the boys absolutely roll with laughter. One thing’s for sure…when I die one day, there will be plenty of fun stories to tell at my funeral.
Now the last dilemma I was faced with was how to get dry and stop the shivering so I didn’t catch pneumonia. All of our clothes were either wet or packed at the very bottom of all that crap in the camper. No way was I gonna get to it without unpacking the camper…and that wasn’t happening. Finally, it dawned on me that my sleep shirt (translation: nightgown) had been rolled into my sleeping bag…it might still be there in the back seat. So we started digging and came up with the nightgown. At the time, the irony escaped me but as I write this, I realize this was the very same nightgown (or sleep shirt) that I was wearing the last time I went camping. Wonder if there’s some sort of spell on it. I might have to burn that damn thing…or at least avoid taking it camping again.
Within minutes, I was out of my wet shirt and bra, and into my sleep shirt. My shorts were wet around the bottoms, but not enough to keep me chilled. With the dry nightgown on and the heater cranked up, I was warming up nicely as we pulled away from camp, leaving behind that old albatross of a tent, two bags of wet firewood, and a 2-gallon jug of water I refused to go back out into the rain to get. Life was good once again!
Until…we got down off the mountain and back to Camp Verde. You see, this was not just an isolated rain storm. This was one of the two days a year where it rains over the entire state of Arizona…and we chose that exact time to go camping…who woulda thunk it? Okay, don’t be rude! The drive from campsite to front door shouldn’t have taken more than 2-1/2 hours or so. But this night, with the downpour and all of the steam coming up off the roads, the going was very slow. So about 3 hours out of camp, I’m starting to squirm in my seat with the need to pee. The boys were no problem. Pull over next to a low bush, they hop out and take care of business, and we’re good to go. But an old broad in a nightgown peeing at the side of the road…well, that’s tougher to ignore…and not gonna happen.
By the time we hit Cordes Junction, it’s not a choice any more. Either we stop at the truck stop and I go inside and take care of business…or that tent’s gonna look like a high, dry spot. The birthday boy is sound asleep by this time, so I only have one grandson laughing his butt off as I screw up the courage to go inside. I grab my purse and hold it in front of me, wishing I’d brought a much, much bigger purse (for coverage), and I walk into the little store at the well-lit truck stop, looking for all the world like I knew exactly what I was doing. I walked straight to the bathroom and winced as I saw a note on the door indicating it was “for customer use only”. Now the guilt begins. I do my business (with tremendous relief) and then I allow my guilt to propel me out into the store itself where the clerk and no less than 3 other customers proceed to openly stare at me. I throw my shoulders back and hold my head up high as I clutch my purse to my chest to hide the fact that I am wearing no bra under my nightgown…as I proceed to grab the closest bag of chips and head to the register. The clerk, bless his heart, tried valiantly not to continue to stare. In fact, he seemed totally unable to make eye contact at all as he rung up my purchase, took my money, and handed me my change.
Back in the truck, my oldest grandson is almost in tears over witnessing the scene inside the store. Which tells me I must be the “fun” gramma…at least, that’s the story I’m going with. LOL
Well, we made it home that night and for the second night in a row, managed to crawl into nice, warm beds (dry beds) at about midnight. Life was still good. However…the next morning, about 7am, I wake to the sound of someone in my room. I roll over with one eye open and it’s birthday boy standing next to my bed. “Hey, bud, you up already?” I ask.
He nods. “Gramma, something bit me when I tried to put my pants on.”
I’m awake now. “Something bit you? What bit you?”
“I don’t know, but it really hurts.” He begins to cry.
Oh crap! I hop out of bed and we head back to the boys’ room where I begin to shake out his jeans. Within seconds, the offending creature makes his presence known. Now, there’s no telling whether that scorpion found its way into my house (since I live in the country) or he hitched a ride all the way back from the lake with us in search of a dry spot to sleep. But this does appear to be the camping trip from hell…the one that just won’t end.
So…to make a longer story shorter, we call 911, the paramedics come and check out the kid, we take him to his doctor who gives him a shot and proclaims him to be fine, and we spend the rest of the day unpacking damp camping equipment and watching movies as birthday boy keeps ice on his poor leg. (By the way, I just talked to him on the phone and he’s doing just fine…none the worse for the wear.)
Well, that’s the tale of this year’s camping trip. Stay tuned…I’m thinking about making it a yearly “event”…a trip and a blog…sort of a package deal…maybe some of you would like to come along next year…or maybe I should just try to figure out a way to get a travel trailer underneath that Christmas tree instead of a new tent and a port-a-potty.
Well, that’s my story…and I’m sticking to it. Hold on tight now, cuz’ we’re gonna go real, real fast!