No self-respecting camping trip would start without first having a significant fight. So, I am proud to report that Danny and Ester are growing up to be experienced outdoor adventurers. It would be too common for them to complain about the destination or the nature of the meals. They understand intuitively that it’s much better to fight about something frivolous and insignificant so you can wonder if it is really a good idea to confine everyone to a tent for any amount of time.
Our fight was a good one. It included insults and a physical altercation all about seating placement in the car. Being the only one with a driver’s license, I lost the fight and still had to sit in the front.
After driving for an hour, we stopped at Burger King for dinner. Like watching a bad reality TV show, we stared out the window as a torrential downpour turned the parking lot into a lake. Not to be deterred by the prospect of misery, we pushed on.
Not wishing to repeat the blood-sucking tick problems that Danny had at our last family outing, we bathed ourselves in bug repellent immediately upon our arrival.
Then we set out to erect the Taj Ma-Tent. This is a tent that we bought as a family that has a couple of rooms, self-rolling windows, and a built-in squash court. It has been almost exactly a year since the tent had last stretched itself out and we had some difficulty remembering whether the red supports go across the top or along the side. Do they fit in the grommet or in the pins? How again does the rain flap work? And why do we have this large piece of nylon left over? What is that all about?
We finally got the tent put up only to find that we had done a poor job of selecting its placement. There were a couple of well-placed thistles under the tent right inside the entrance. They would greet our shoeless feet upon entering and exiting. It was a great learning experience. For instance, I learned that Ester had picked up on an impressive array of adult words.
We decided to explore the nearby area after dinner.
We had the forethought to each bring a flashlight (unlike last year), but not smart enough to bring a map, a compass, and four-days’ rations. We wandered through the thicket heading in (roughly) the right direction until it was obvious that we were no longer going in the right direction. As I told her to be careful climbing through that bush, Ester innocently asked whether we were lost. I explained that we were not lost; it was the camp that was missing.
The bushwhack-hike through the dark Texas wilderness ended with us back-tracking to the campsite. When Danny and Ester challenged my preternatural sense of direction, I simply informed them that it was a rookie mistake to approach your camp from the most direct path. What would happen if it had been overtaken by Bug and his kids? We wouldn’t want to walk into their ambush, now would we?
The kids—being made of rubber—conformed to the ground and slept well. I woke up a half a dozen times before dawn when I woke up to find myself folded over a thistle…which means that it ranks in the top five best night’s sleep I have had camping as an adult.
In the end, the camping was a huge success. Ester asked whether we could “do this always” and Danny seemed to enjoy getting out into nature where a shower does not threaten one’s mental well-being and where a s’more is an essential food group.