Having discovered that so many wonderful events in the arts and music are merely a roadtrip away, I have begun to contemplate camping as one of the ways to enjoy more opportunities while keeping the costs in check. The problem is, my camping skills fall somewhere behind my skills in brain surgery, and therefore I felt I needed some guidance. So I found myself a sherpa to lead the way.
I would like to introduce you all to my friend Jelane Kennedy and her new blog, Travels in Abbey. This is a camping primer for people just like me (the truly stupid). Just how stupid? Jelane and her partner Eileen drove Abbey into a rustic Adirondack arts retreat (Pyramid Life Center) where I was staying with a friend. As sleek black Abbey pulled past me to the road leading to the main cabins, I wondered to myself where they were going. Later I asked Jelane, “what cabin are you guys staying in?”
Like I said, truly stupid. Jelane, the nicest of nice people, didn’t take the opportunity to laugh in my face. “We’re camping, Linda,” she said gently. Travels in Abbey has information ranging from a rating of campground bathrooms to Gadgets and Gear on what to bring (and not to bother with) for your first trips–and it couldn’t be more useful to neophytes and experienced campers alike!
And clearly, I need help. Lets start with what I do know. I have a very basic understanding of camping, having done it at a few pivotal points in my life. This is what I have learned:
CAMPING LESSON #1: WAIT FOR THE FOG TO CLEAR
Long time ago, when I was in college in Boston, I had a part-time job in a downtown office. My friends there were a little older and married, and had lived all of their lives in Southie, the part of the city that is primarily old Irish working class neighborhoods, best reflected in the movie Good Will Hunting (authentic local color and accents provided by Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck and Matt Damon). If you’ve seen the movie, you know the kind of company I was in for my first weekend of camping in I-don’t-know-where, New Hampshire. Lots of fun, but safety and planning were not really part of the process.
So I was a camper-in-training, a single college girl in the New England woods with a handful of Afflecks from Southie, my two married girlfriends, 3 cars, several tents, a dog, and a few cases of bee-ah.
At the first night’s campfire, there were burgers and hotdogs, plenty of beer passed around, and of course, some roasted marshmallows, before the guys started rolling some hot-dog sized joints, followed by lots of laughter roaring through the trees. Apparently, this would drive the bears away, or so I hoped. We all fell asleep sometime after midnight and I was awakened just after dawn by my friend Mary. “I need your help,” she said. “Can we borrow your car?” She had decided to go to the grocery store to replenish the supplies (beer) that had been depleted, and in the morning mist had backed the car into a ditch. Now the guys hooked a rope to my Ford Galaxy 500 and stood back to roll a new joint and think about what they were about to perpetrate.
CAMPING LESSON #2: SIP THE BEER SLOWLY
In my 20s I went hiking and camping overnight into California canyon country with another group of coworkers. I had never spent any real time hiking and now I had a backpack and was straddling mountain ledges—probably not the best idea, but it wasn’t mine to begin with. The next day we all hiked out again, about 4 hours in the baking sun. My sharpest memory was heading straight to a bar for a cold beer, which our brave and fearless leader downed in 12 seconds. Then, in vaudevillian fashion, his eyes rolled back in his head and he keeled over backward from the stool onto the floor.
CAMPING LESSON #3: CHECK THE MOVIE SCHEDULE
In my once-upon-a-time married life, long ago, my ex-husband and I had moved to Florida from New York City, and we went full throttle rural, buying camping equipment. My ex had found a wonderful camping site north of Gainesville called Ginnie Springs, which I remember to this day for the clear, warm underground springs that glowed through the night.
We drove from Largo for nearly 3 hours (a straight, flat road with one hill near Gainesville that bumps your pulse just a notch up from coma), to the campsite, where my hubby set up the tent and blew up the mattress, then said. “Let’s go for a swim.” Convinced he was a camping expert, I followed. The water, a constant 72 degrees, was like a German spa and has wonderful underground caves that are illuminated by algae for scuba diving. It really is remarkable.
We swam until near dinnertime, and when we headed back to our camp I realized we hadn’t gotten any food. “Get dressed,” hubby said and we’ll get something. We hopped into the car, left the gear behind and got back on the highway for Gainesville where he pulled into a giant mall. We had a nice dinner, shopped for a while and then caught a movie before heading home—I mean to the tent. The gates to the campground were closed when we arrived around 12:30 AM and we had to move them ourselves. Then we woke everyone in the place with our high beams while trying to avoid hitting trees and ditches. Once encamped again, we took a late, luminescent swim with about 30 other people in what now looked like a hot tub in the Rainforest Cafe. Ah, wilderness.
So, Jelane and Eileen…and of course, Abbey, I give myself over to the three of you. Educate me about camping. You can only do better than my previous instructors (you certainly can’t do much worse).
Make sure to visit Travels in Abbey for yourself before you go anywhere.
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